At the beginning of this millennium, the Mediterranean area, a lofty place of great civilisations where a continual mix of cultures has evolved from antiquity until the present time, is undergoing geopolitical developments, in particular within the framework of European integration and the new European Neighbourhood Policy, but also from the perspective of the evolution of the MEDA countries and their influence in the region.
Among these developments, the accession of Malta and Cyprus within the framework of the latest enlargement of the EU is worthy of mention for the period 2003-2004, as well as the willingness on the part of Turkey to finally commit itself to the accession process and the interest of the 10 other MEDA countries in precisely defining the new European Neighbourhood Policy for the Mediterranean zone.
But before addressing recent co-operation in the Mediterranean zone, it should be noted that it does not come from nowhere but is part of an ongoing process. More precisely, within the context of EU regional policy, an initial «Western Mediterranean and Latin Alps» programme was implemented as part of the 1996-1999 round of programmes. This programme has financed 23 transnational projects between the Mediterranean regions of Spain, France, Greece and Italy for a total of 30 M€.
The Interreg IIIB Medocc programme (Western Mediterranean), the successor to this programme, constitutes part of the 2000-2006 round of programmes. In reality, it did not get underway until the current 2003/2004 round and until now has only consisted of 77 financed transnational projects (end of 2004).
This programme, which is financed by the European Union structural funds, has a total budget of €214.9 M and develops along 4 priority axes (see graphic 18, logical framework of the programme). These include cultural collaboration between the two shores of the Mediterranean, territorial development, the environment, sustainable tourism, management of hydrous resources and the prevention/management of natural disasters. Topics which really address the challenges faced by the Mediterranean area.
From a spatial perspective, the Interreg IIIB Medocc programme has considerably expanded in relation to its predecessor. It currently covers the Mediterranean regions of the 7 EU Member States as well as participation of 10 MEDA countries (see map 1), Switzerland, not being an EU Member State, associated to the programme.
European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP)
Adopted in 1999 by the EU Council of Ministers responsible for managing the region’s resources, the ESPD constitutes an appropriate orientation framework for sectoral policies that have a spatial impact in the EU and the Member States, as well as for regional and local bodies, with a view to attaining balanced and sustainable development of the European territory.
Like the other EU structural funds programmes, ESDP has been the main driving force behind the Interreg III programme. In fact, taking into consideration the persistence of disparities in regional development, and the effects of EU policies which are still partially contradictory, all the actors responsible for spatial development should be able to derive inspiration from the territorial guiding principles as well as from the fundamental objectives. In this sense, ESDP endeavours to pursue a threefold objective, namely economic and social cohesion, preservation of the basic conditions of life and the cultural heritage, and a more balanced competitiveness in the European region. Above all, the ESDPD offers a future vision for the EU.A general reference framework for the measures that have a spatial impact aimed at public and private decision makers is defined on the basis of the objectives and guiding principles that it has set itself. In addition, its aim is to motivate the public to play a greater role in political decision-making debate at European level and its consequences for the towns and regions of the EU. This leads us to the principal objectives and options affecting the European territory, such as spatial polycentric development and the new town-country relationship, access to infrastructures, as well as the main trends, perspectives and challenges affecting the EU territory.
ESDP principles and priorities in the Interreg IIIB Medocc Operational Programme, transposed to the specific problems of the Mediterranean area. For this purpose, the programme has used the SWOT analysis (strengths/weaknesses – opportunities/threats), applying two types of concepts: endogenous concepts (strengths/weaknesses) and exogenous concepts (opportunities/threats). This analysis as well as the experience of the IIC predecessor programme have facilitated a precise definition of the axes and measures as well as the corresponding budgets by annuality, such as those found in the Complement Programme.
The programme is part of section B (transnational co-operation), and each project must take place on a territory which covers regions from at least two Member States. Each project has a project co-ordinator with legal and administrative responsibility, and a varied number of partnerships emanating from 7 Member States (sometimes up to twenty partnerships, depending on the nature and requirements of the project). Each project thus constitutes a form of transnational consortium.
How Did the Programme Progress in 2004?
Despite a certain delay in starting, which is customary for the majority of Interregg programmes, 77 projects have already been chosen during 3 rounds of selection for a total €71 M from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and a total budget of €129 M.
Axis 1 projects which may be cited include: Euromedinculture (Euromed Information Culture, network of Euroregional cultural co-operation); Internum (project for the valuation, management and protection of digitised documentary heritage in the Mediterranean); Maghreb (project to incorporate young professionals in internationalised European enterprises); Merite (Rural Mediterranean Excellence: Innovation – Territory – Enterprise) or also Tela di Aracnae (Strengthen and increase the proportion of female interpartnerships in the Mediterranean textile industry) and Téthys (numerical platform for managing the knowledge about Mediterranean cultures and regions: application of an interregional approach towards the management of natural resources and public health in the Mediterranean Basin).
The following projects financed in Axis 2 may be cited: C2M (Co-operation of Mediterranean Metropolises), Isolatino (traditional marketing of Mediterranean islands), Restauronet (Encouragement of the resources and the government of historic polycentrism in the Mediterranean), and also Urbacost (Coastal urbanisation and rural zones with a high level of historic structure representation: a model o fintervention) or Ruralmed I and II (Permanent Forum and network of centres for rural development in the Mediterranean).
Axis 3, which focuses on intermodal transport, but also on the Information Society, has always had a rather limited number of propositions in relation to the other axes. This may be explained by the fact that this sector, despite the enormous requirements of the Mediterranean territories, has a need for much larger funds to establish joint infrastructures and strategies. This is why the projects that are presented are often limited to studies. These include: Accessibilité – Inter Modalité(Cohesion of the Mediterranean Basin through the management of regional transport systems), Mobilmed (Mobility on the islands, coasts and in the fragile ecosystems of the Mediterranean), Teria (Environmental insertion of airports in the Western Mediterranean area), Port Net Med Plus (The network of regions and ports in the Western Mediterranean) or even Technolange (Integration of planning and information languages with a view to elaborating interactive spatial maps called Medocc-Meda and the corresponding transport systems) and Agata (Multiservice Agency based on telecentres for the integrated management of mobility and accessibility of transport).
In fact Axis 4 brings together 36 projects which vary from environmentally friendly tourism, heritage valuation to desertification and prevention/management of natural disasters. These include the following: Fleuve ( Water problems from the perspective of the rivers affected and from an environmental protection and development perspective), Formedozone (Follow-up consolidation and the effects of ozone on Mediterranean vegetation for the protection of the environment and sensitisation of public actors), Recoforme (Network structuring of and co-operation actions on the Mediterranean forest), ETSM (Sustainable tourism and open-air sport: the type of sustainable development opportunities for tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Basin) or also Amphore (Application of methods for hydrometerological forecasting oriented towards environmental hazards), and Sedemed (Draughts and Desertification in the Mediterranean Basin).
Participation of Third Mediterranean Countries (TMC)
One of the bastions of collaboration in the Mediterranean area is precisely that which is expressly included in axis 1, namely strengthening the ties and collaboration between the two shores of the Mediterranean. The current round of programmes already provides for participation of the southern shore countries and a significant number of partnerships emanate from the 10 MEDA countries. Until now, however, European Union rules, in particular the fact that third countries are unable to benefit from the ERDF funds, have been a major obstacle. These rules are expressed by the fact that partnerships in these countries must bring their own funds with them or look for financing from other budgetary lines. In their own budgets, European partnerships may only include expenditure to enable the participation of representatives from these countries (mainly plane tickets and hotel expenses). In practice, this limits their participation to the role of observer, which is hardly conducive to attaining the initial objective announced.
One of the greatest challenges for the next round of programmes (2007-2013) will be to make this participation effective and profitable for the Union and MEDA countries within the context of a true partnership. The famous new European Neighbourhood Policy and the major funds which support it should meet these needs Furthermore, it should already have been introduced in 2005-2006 and be totally integrated in the next round of programmes from 2007 onwards with a new European Neighbourhood Instrument.
2005 will be the year of two last calls for projects (the end of the selection process for the one launched in 2004 and the last call which will be launched in mid 2005), but also a year of evaluation for the 44 projects already completed and capitalisation of experience acquired. This will be a small treasure house of valuable information to orientate Mediterranean collaboration towards an even greater optimisation of resources.
 SDEC, European Spatial Development Perspective: Towards a balanced and sustainable spatial development of the European Union territory, Potsdam, May 1999.
 The other sections are: Section A (cross-border co-operation) and section C (interregional co-operation).