IEMed Mediterranean Yearbook 2007


Panorama : The Mediterranean Year

Economy and Territory

Culture and Society


The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership: A Southern Perspective

Hassan Abouyoub

Former Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco

The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership: A Southern Perspective

The title of this article, which refers to an individual point of view, was not chosen by chance, but reflects an irrefutable truth: since the southern Mediterranean region consists of many countries it cannot be viewed as a monolith. A diversity of socioeconomic models, subtle differences in the chosen reform routes, anthropologic idiosyncrasies, and the different challenges faced by each nation, all explain why the Euro-Mediterranean region is an unidentified geopolitical entity. Representing the point of view of such a complex region is not a risk I am willing to assume.

I would draw attention to the subtle differences in attitudes and strategic postures adopted by the southern member states of the EU, as an echo of southern idiosyncrasies.

I had the opportunity, during the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration, to call for the creation of a Mediterranean community. This call was inspired by the need to equip the Euromed process with legitimacy, popular and strategic visibility, and, in sum, greater credibility.

This call, which was echoed and supported by my colleague, Jean Louis Guigou, has attracted the interest of European decision makers, and evidence of this is the fact that the main candidates for the French presidency all support the idea of a Mediterranean community. The road to this goal, however, will be a long and difficult one sown with pitfalls, as follows:

  1. The inclusion of the southern bank of the Mediterranean in a community project would require further political reform to ensure that the concept of joining with Europe is popularly accepted. The implementation of commitments undertaken in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), irrespective of their scope, is an essential test of the credibility of any actions undertaken.
  2. The relaunching of the process for reconstructing Europe’s institutions, in addition to creating a strong consensus regarding the social project for Europe in the future, needs to take account of a foreign and common security policy that is both foreseeable and visible and which also gives Europe an international role. Essential tests will be the EU’s contribution to resolving the Middle East crisis and successfully managing the crisis in Iraq. And logically, other regional conflicts, such as the case of the Sahara, also need to be addressed.
  3. Security in the region—from the Black Sea to the Sahel region, and including Gibraltar— is essential in order to foster emerging democratic movements that are vulnerable to extremism and Mafia networks.
  4.  Islam needs to be rehabilitated as a component in the plural nature of European identity. The ghettoisation of Muslim communities, the marginalisation of Islamic religious practice, and the different forms of laicity advocated by the EU distort messages, create confusion, and trigger behaviours leaning towards terrorist activism.
  5. Migration needs to be managed within a framework of consensus-based policies grounded in a holistic approach that takes into account all the factors behind the strongly felt need for free circulation. The public image of a European fortress and the humiliation implied by regulatory procedures inside and outside the Schengen area are incompatible with the Euromed spirit of partnership, and even more so with the idea of a community sharing a destiny.

In addition to these pitfalls, there is the problem of ensuring that the Barcelona Process remains minimally functional. Its many defects should not lead to neglect of its core principle, which is that it represents the only platform for dialogue that brings together all the actors in the Mediterranean region.

The five-year action plan (which includes a huge catalogue of measures adopted by heads of states and governments at the 10th anniversary of the Barcelona Process) and the projects undertaken by national governments within the ENP are the most important tools for achieving the Barcelona Process’ aim of creating an area of shared prosperity and common security where the universal values of freedom, democracy, and human rights are respected. An impressive series of sectoral meetings were held to implement these programmes.

The five-year action plan and the projects undertaken by national governments within the ENP are the most important tools for achieving the Barcelona Process’ aim

An analysis of all these commitments regarding the goals underlying the Barcelona Declaration raise questions in relation to the relevance of the chosen measures, the strength of EU commitment to supporting these programmes (particularly in terms of funding) and the sense of commitment of the southern countries to the measures–in regard to which the following comments are in order:

  1. What is striking about the nature of the Barcelona Declaration is its strictly bilateral character. The acquis communautaire that covers the single market (1993) is not being considered within the perspective of regional harmonisation. À la carte adhesion to regulatory prescription tends to generate greater distortions in south-south exchanges, which are still weak. The aim of promoting these exchanges has been completely overlooked. The recent implementation of the Agadir agreement should have triggered a negotiation process with the EU that ensured that national programmes operating within the framework of the ENP included a market harmonisation dimension.
  2. No political conditions or commitments have been foreseen regarding the creation of favourable circumstances for the resolution of possible conflicts. There is little protest at the closing of a border, the lack of dialogue between neighbours, or the aggravation of instability caused by non-management of security situations in a particular region.
  3. The funding supplied by the EU within the framework of the new ENP instrument not only fails to meet the need for improving human development standards in the south, but also perpetuates an aid model that does not render actors sufficiently accountable and that overlooks the leveraging potential that could result from an alternative approach.
  4. An evaluation of the entire apparatus raises doubts about its capacity to help overcome the considerable deficits experienced by the south in all areas. In a timeframe of five years, the countries on the southern bank of the Mediterranean—with some exceptions—will not have succeeded in reversing the strong trends that mark their possibilities for growth and human development. In areas such as poverty reduction, job creation, the improvement of education and the integration of women, etc., indicators reveal an accumulated structural lag with respect to other regions in the world. In terms of competitivity, the situation depicted by the transformation indices issued by international institutions (World Bank, Davos, Bertelsmann, etc.) is even more alarming.

What can be done while we wait for the conditions to be created that will launch us on the long road to the creation of a Mediterranean community? Some alternatives are as follows:

  1. The Tampere Declaration needs to be taken into consideration as a minimum requirement for boosting the faltering Barcelona Process.
  2. An institutional mechanism with equal representation from both sides needs to be created to take charge of monitoring progress, evaluating sectoral policies, and tailoring national policies to the commitments undertaken by Euro-Med actors.
  3. Common policies on both sides of the Mediterranean should be implemented in sectors in which Euro-sceptics and members who are not involved in the Mediterranean will not exercise their veto.
  4. A conference for peace and security in the Mediterranean needs to be implemented that will address political and geostratregic threats in the region (Black Sea-Mediterranean-Sahel).

These four principles could be articulated in the framework of projects such as the following:

These ideas would enable the mobilisation of the kind of popular support that is currently lacking for the Barcelona Process

  1. A Mediterranean Bank (which would not function like other regional or international banks) should act as a socioeconomic observatory of the Mediterranean and as a source of innovative investment funding that meets public and private sectors needs. This bank would not provide grants or concessional loans, but would provide funding through various instruments and manage externalities through public mechanisms that represent both sides equally. It would represent a mix of the European Investment Bank and the EU Structural Funds, but would also have a guarantee and risk capital component.
  2. Drawing on the lessons to be learned from the Iraqi crisis and from Iran, highlighting the need for collective security (economic and energy, civil, natural diasters, terrorism, trafficking of all types), and taking stock of the failure of the actors involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a revisited and adapted Helsinki-type conference might represent an opportunity for a new deployment of concepts, past agreements and future demands. In partnership with the USA and other major international players (Russia), this represents an avenue to be explored (and one that will eventually have to be explored anyway).
  3. A Euromed airspace, founded on the open-sky principle, seems to offer considerable potential for laying the basis for a sustainable tourism industry.
  4. A Mediterranean agricultural market would regulate preferential exchanges and allow consensual redesign of the Mediterranean agricultural area.
  5. A knowledge area and knowledge economy would assist in managing the demographic asymmetries between the north and the south and offer a credible alternative to the quantitative management of migratory flows in terms of quotas.

These ideas would enable the mobilisation of the kind of popular support that is currently lacking for the Barcelona Process, and would also provide the dynamism necessary to accelerate political reform in the south. They would not overshadow current programmes—rather they would make them more visible and define a horizon that would catalyse energies and sow hope where there is currently doubt. The provocative dimension aims merely to foster a broad-based debate that would go beyond the political sphere.