IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2005


Panorama : The Mediterranean Year


2004: The Mediterranean in View of its Project

Gemma Aubarell

Programme Director
European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed), Barcelona

Ten years after Barcelona, the Euromediterranean process faces its validation as a project. The holding of the extraordinary conference in Barcelona in November 2005 served as an incentive for various assessments to be made during the period before. Within the context in which we find ourselves in 2005, named «Year of the Mediterranean» by the European Union (EU), we could be tempted to describe 2004 as a transition year. But however, there is more to  this. Some events are sufficiently illustrative of this. The terrorist attack in Madrid on 11th March will prove decisive in focusing on the reorientation of Spain in the Iraq conflict or European awareness itself in the face of terrorism. Another key factor is the death of Arafat, putting an end to decisive leadership in the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Following his departure, new questions were raised as to the success of the framework of the Geneva Agreements, the effectiveness of the Road Map or the future plan for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza by Israel.

Indeed, the year 2004, largely due to past circumstances, will essentially mark future scenarios in the area. The post-war situation in Iraq and the incapacity to resolve what now seems to be a civil war would perhaps be the most obvious. The withdrawal of Spanish troops after the results of the elections in the country will likewise create a strong reorientation of European, southern and transatlantic alliances with specific weight on the relationship of forces in the area.

2004 is also the year of great uncertainties for the European project itself. Turkey emerges as the key catalyst in this situation. During the year different opinions are woven and Europe speaks out  awaiting the decision of the European Council after the favourable report of the Commission in October. This council, meeting in Brussels at the end of the year, will decide to start negotiations for Turkey’s accession to the EU. During 2004 Europe feels questioned by Turkey, and this may lead one to think that this debate has been one of the preludes to the constitutional controversy that marked the following period. Thus, Europe is also confronted with its political project.

In the framework of European construction and the Euromediterranean Partnership, and once again, as a result of the situation of the project, one of the matters that has been resolved through the year has been the definitive introduction of the European Neighbourhood Policy in the Euromed agenda. Two questions have been raised in this regard: Is the European Neighbourhood Policy going to replace the Barcelona Process? Is the Barcelona multilateral framework going to be substituted by the gradual establishment of bilateral action plans with partners? Some of the challenges set are a necessary complementarity, some genuinely operational plans and the establishment of concrete objectives in spaces such as the Euro-Maghrebi.

On the threshold of the year of the Mediterranean, 2004 is the scenario of two key decisive discourses for the region; both are set to carry significant specific weight in the global context of international politics. First of all, the drawing up of the project on the alliance of civilizations, which the President of the Spanish government will launch within the framework of the United Nations in September the same year. Secondly, the strength with which the «Partnership for Progress and a Common Future» declaration irrupted into the region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) within the framework of the meeting of the G8 on Sea Island in June 2004, announcing support for reforms drawn up by the American project for the Mediterranean, the BMENA. Throughout 2004, this discourse will have some significant moments, such as the meeting of the Forum for the Future in Rabat in December 2004.

The role of an enlarged Europe and its Euromediterranean project within the framework of the recently drawn up European Neighbourhood Policy should be harmonized, as made evident during the ministerial conference held in The Hague in November 2004, with different multilateral initiatives drawn up for the Mediterranean region. Similarly, after recent Mediterranean enlargement and the Turkish dossier, the importance of the specifically Arab dimension in this reformulation of objectives and their strategic integration in the external aspect of the Euromediterranean Partnership was considered. Finally, we must take into account the role played by organisations such as NATO in transatlantic relations and in the search for complementarities, not forgetting their complementarity with the Euromed agenda. Mention should also be made of the recent enlargements of NATO in March 2004- some of them a prelude to European integration.

One of the main consequences to be derived from all of this is the need to provide the Euromediterranean Partnership with real political effectiveness. Certainly, this should bear fruit as from 2005. From its beginnings the Barcelona Process set out a progressive framework of liberalization, basically economic, but also to serve as an incentive to other changes (political, social…). We now know that this has not been enough.

Therefore we currently find ourselves faced with the challenge of a Euromediterranean project which should have democratic strength and should be provided with effective instruments to allow processes of political reform and social changes. The results of the Arab report on human development in 2004, dedicated to the freedoms of this region, are clearly indicative of this. Corruption, poverty, transparency, judicial systems or equality are the main matters still unresolved. This will most certainly be the main profound change that these circumstances will mean for the future approach to the Barcelona project.

Also, there is an urgent need to  take stock of some Euromediterranean relationships which are, to a large extent, the result of  globalization. The emergence of Asian markets such as China or India establishes different rules in the game. Competition in intensive work or closed agricultural markets are circumstances not of much help for northern Africa. Its proximity and investments, however, offer great potential. And, especially, it is worth mentioning the need for structural changes -this would bring about institutional reforms, thus enabling the growth of competitive economies.

The outline of some key points which this year holds for us can prove useful in understanding, above all, what 2004 has meant in terms of launching of ideas and projects associated with the region. From multiple viewpoints, it would probably be the global context in which it is redeveloped and the importance of foreign repercussions that truly turns the Mediterranean into a project under construction, a project to be resolved within and outside of its borders. Dealing with this reality, as necessary as it is difficult to resolve, is one of the legacies which the year 2004 has in store for the Mediterranean.