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On May 20th, Spain’s foreign ministry said in a statement that “the Spanish presidency of the European Union (EU) and the two co-chairs of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), Egypt and France, had agreed to postpone the summit scheduled for June 5-7th in Barcelona. The statement also said “this postponement will also give a greater amount of time for the process of Israeli-Palestinian talks to begin to yield results.” Following the Israeli attack on a humanitarian flotilla of ships trying to break the blockade of the Gaza strip such words sound like wishful thinking.

On July 13th 2008, President Nicolas Sarkozy kidnapped the European Mediterranean Policy (EMP). The maiden was henceforth to be known as the UfM. Germany viewed the retooling of the EMP engine as distinctly second rate. Nobody in the City of London paid much attention. Spain was upstaged but paying the price for its refusal to draw the hard lessons of the failure of the Barcelona+10 conference in November 2005.

When he launched the EMP in 1995, the Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez enjoyed the full support of Chancellor Helmut Kohl. It was seen by its promoters as a complement to the EU’s opening to Eastern Europe after the collapse of the Communist empire and further encouraged because a serious Israeli Palestinian dialogue appeared to be bearing fruit.

The EU launched its Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2003, by which time it was becoming obvious that its normative policy was failing to live up to its stated principles. Democracy promotion was more a means of catching up with the US for fear of being seen as siding with governments against societies than the expression of any genuine support for those in North Africa and the Middle East who craved the rule of law rather than arbitrary government. The bias in all the instruments of EU Mediterranean policy was further distorted by the US led war against terror. What had started as an attempt to dialogue became by semantic betrayal, fear of the Muslim Other while the progress of Turkey, a key ally in the Cold War, towards greater democracy was belittled.

It is impossible to know whether the EMP has been economically successful or not because no independent method of evaluation of its aid policy has ever been attempted. That was equally true of the ENP which burnished the diplomatic image of those countries who signed up but is of little economic use otherwise. Its founders wished to see the UfM focus on uncontroversial projects such a solar energy but results have been disappointing. Well designed large joint-ventures in food processing, energy and fertilisers do not find mobilising capital difficult and move ahead regardless of fiat from the EU.

The UfM has failed on different accounts. After the raid against the humanitarian flotilla, the International Crisis Group wrote that the Israeli attack was an indictment of a policy for which Israel does not bear sole responsibility. “Many in the international community have been complicit in a policy aimed at isolating Gaza in the hope of weakening Hamas. This policy is morally appalling and politically self-defeating.” Many European governments have forfeited the respect of all Southern Mediterranean people and not a few of its own citizens. .../...

Read the end of the paper : UfM failure UfM failure

Francis Ghilès is Senior Researcher, CIDOB


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