The European Union’s Policies and Frameworks for Cooperation with the Mediterranean Partner Countries

Erwan Lannon

Professor in European Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghent and the College of Europe

This analysis focuses on questions 9 to 14, which centred on Euro-Mediterranean policies, i.e. EU responses to the so-called Arab Spring and the developments related to the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and, especially, its 2011 revision. The objective of this short analysis is to go beyond the purely factual analysis of the responses to the Survey.

The Potential Long-Term Impacts of the So-Called Arab Spring on the Euro-Mediterranean Integration Process

For the question related to the potential impact of the so-called Arab Spring on the Euro- Mediterranean integration process (in the long term), it is of course almost impossible to give a clear-cut answer given the variety of the situations in the Arab Mediterranean countries and the fact that the situation is evolving on a daily basis. However, a 2/3 majority of respondents are expecting a positive impact.

Graph 1: Impact of the Arab Spring on the Euro-Mediterranean integration process (%)

Source: Compiled by the IEMed based on the results of the 4th Euromed Survey

No doubt a move towards democratisation is perfectly in line with the aims of the Euro- Mediterranean integration process. However, it is also clear that proper functioning democracies imply a more vibrant civil society and a truly contrasted political debate. This democratic debate might not necessarily be fully in favour of the deepening of this integration process for various reasons but notably because of the huge development of the political spectrums in countries such as Tunisia (more than a hundred new political parties were registered after the Jasmine Revolution) and Egypt, where the Al Nour Party, for instance, achieved 25% of the votes in the elections. One should also not forget that President Morsi condemned the French intervention in Mali whereas the Algerian authorities authorised French jetfighters to fly over their territory. Some newly-elected governments in Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs) might also be inclined to reinforce or diversify their relations and develop new types of partnerships outside the Euromed framework. Other political forces might also be opposed to a deepening of relationships both at a political and economic level. In other words, the passage from authoritarian regimes to democratic regimes involves time but also more complexity at a political level. However, the short term must not hide the long-term perspective that should culminate in a deep Euro-Mediterranean economic integration and political association among democratic states. This is the challenge ahead.

The Union for the Mediterranean and its Secretariat at a Crossroads

The second question was related to the kind of role the UfM Secretariat will play in the Euromed multilateral framework. The difficult start of the Union of the Mediterranean transformed into a Union for the Mediterranean is of course a heavy burden on the shoulders of the second Secretary General of the UfM. At a multilateral level, one should recall that the ultimate objective of the ENP is to create a Neighbourhood Economic Community (NEC), therefore the multilateral dimension of the ENP (regional, interregional and cross-border cooperation) will be of specific importance in the years to come. Moreover, from 2014 the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) will replace the current European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) and important changes will be introduced. At sub-regional level, there was a quite recent Communication on the Maghreb entitled “Supporting Closer Cooperation and Regional Integration in the Maghreb: Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia”.

Graph 2: Role of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in the new framework of the multilateral relations in the region (average on a scale of 0-10, where 0 stands for negligible role and 10 for key role)

Source: Compiled by the IEMed based on the results of the 4th Euromed Survey

Originally, the role of the UfM Secretariat was mainly limited to the 6 projects identified within the framework of the annex attached to the 2008 Paris Declaration. Today, the website clearly states that the objectives of the Secretariat of the UfM are to:

i) Identify, screen, process, brand and promote projects within and among the UfM Member States;

ii) Identify and procure the interest and involvement of funding and implementation partners.

iii) Ensure appropriate coordination with, and provide assistance to, the various interested partners with respect to funding, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects.

iv) Enhance the visibility of the UfM among public and private sectors within and beyond UfM countries.

v) Establish institutional links among other UfM structures and institutions and provide support thereto.”

In the Joint Communication of March 2011, the European Commission and the High Representative acknowledged that even the “idea behind the establishment of the Union for the Mediterranean was a positive one – that of a high level partnership between the two shores of the Mediterranean. However (…) its implementation did not deliver the results (…) expected.” The need to reform the UfM so that it could work as “a catalyst bringing States, International Financial Institutions and the private sector together around concrete projects generating jobs, innovation and growth” was emphasised together with the fact that “Partner countries’ participation in these projects could follow the principle of variable geometry depending on their needs and interests.” In other words, the High Representative and the Commission declared themselves “ready to play a bigger role in the Union for the Mediterranean” and this “in line with the Lisbon Treaty.”

The second Joint Communication of May 2011 stressed that the UfM should “organise effective and result-oriented regional cooperation” and that “revitalising the UfM requires a switch to a more pragmatic and project-based approach.” Moreover, the UfM Secretariat must “operate as a catalyst to bring states, the European Investment Bank (EIB ), International Financial Institutions and the private sector together around concrete economic projects of strategic importance and generating jobs, innovation and growth throughout the region. (…) Co-financing for specific infrastructure projects from the EU budget could be provided through the Neighbourhood Investment Facility.” These guidelines were obviously followed during the last two years. However, the regional context and especially the Arab uprisings did not facilitate the work of the renovated UfM Secretariat. Let us just recall the major issue of the UfM co-presidency that became as complex for the EU as for its partners.

If one looks at the “expected achievements by the end of 2013” as enumerated by the European Commission in the 2012 Roadmap for future action, it is obvious that it will be difficult to achieve all objectives in the coming six months. Although one can observe that the Union for the Mediterranean Secretariat entered a new phase of consolidation of structures and also clarified some issues of governance, a “new impetus (…) to the sector dialogues” cannot yet be seen due to the very few ministerial meetings held during the last three years. The fact that the EU now assumes the Union for the Mediterranean northern co-presidency is nevertheless an important improvement and should provide not only more consistency but also better continuity of the work. Moreover, the Arab Spring has a direct impact on the southern presidency that was originally held by President Mubarak. In terms of the different regional projects, here again it is not the best context as we are at the end of the first phase of the ENP (2007-2013) from a financial cooperation perspective; thus it is more a time of assessment.

Euro-Mediterranean multilateral cooperation remains of great importance, especially with a renovation of the ENP mostly based on increased bilateral differentiation and reinforced positive/negative conditionality. Moreover, new impetus was given to EU -League of Arab States (LAS ) relations recently and this must also be taken into consideration. As far as the Maghreb is concerned, the publication of a Communication on this issue is clearly the sign that there is political will on the side of the EU . However, the main problem is how to solve the Western Sahara issue and thus facilitate dialogue between all parties involved. Until now the EU has let the UN deal with this issue, so far without results. Instead of trying to re-launch the AMU, it could perhaps be more fruitful to directly address what is really at stake here. This is becoming very urgent given the serious deterioration of the situation in the Sahel. Certainly, all parties involved have common concerns and interests.

In March 2013, the Joint Communication entitled “European Neighbourhood Policy: Working towards a Stronger Partnership”, stressed that the “northern co-presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean was transferred to the EU and Jordan assumed the southern co-presidency. This was a sign of renewed willingness on both sides of the Mediterranean to turn the UfM, as a unique forum of 43 members, into an effective catalyst for the development of regional projects.” Moreover, it was stressed that “the EU -League of Arab States Ministerial Meeting in November gave a clear political message about the commitment of EU and Arab Ministers to cooperate in tackling the issues they have in common.”

Graph 3: Assessment of UfM northern co-presidency being transferred to the EU in 2012 (average on a scale of 0-10, where 0 stands for negligible role and 10 for key role)

Source: Compiled by the IEMed based on the results of the 4th Euromed Survey

Governance and ownership are key aspects of the UfM. It is therefore crucial to give more visibility to the UfM and its Secretariat to reinforce the sense of ownership in the MPCs. Also of importance is the need to re-launch the ministerial sectoral meetings. According to the 2012 Communication on “Delivering on a New European Neighbourhood Policy”, the Commission stressed that “in the context of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), and following the Council’s decision to transfer the northern co-presidency to the EU , the Commission is keen to restart the sectoral dialogues at ministerial level. Discussions with partners are ongoing to agree on a number of meetings on trade, transport, energy and environment and other sectoral policies. These sectoral ministerial meetings would identify joint objectives for regional cooperation and would also help identify possible concrete projects to be carried out in the context of the UfM.” The problem is that this restart has not yet taken place.

Identifying the Right Priorities for the EU’s Actions

The Survey also addressed the issues of the priorities identified in the Communications of the European Commission and the High Representative entitled “A New Response to a Changing Neighbourhood” and “Delivering on a New European Neighbourhood Policy”. Respondents were asked to rank the now famous “3Ms” (Money, Market access and Mobility). The result of the Survey clearly shows that all “Ms” are of a quite similar importance to the respondents.

Graph 4: Classification of priorities identified in the Communications of the European Commission and the High Representative on: “A New Response to a Changing Neighbourhood” (answers as first priority in %)

Source: Compiled by the IEMed based on the results of the 4th Euromed Survey

Starting with “Money”, the idea put forward in the 2011 Communication of the European Commission and the High Representative was to “reallocate/refocus” the remaining funds of the ENPI, which is going to be replaced by the ENI from January 2014. The refocus to “support the transition to democracy, institution building, support civil society and the socioeconomic needs of countries” was achieved through the revision of the NIPs. Regarding the financial envelope, “in addition to the €3.5 billion already programmed for the period 2011-13, the EU is providing around €700 million in new grants for the Southern Neighbourhood.”

For the potential re-allocation from one country to another one should recall that the 2011 Joint Communication on the revision of the ENP stressed that: “increased EU support to its neighbours is conditional” and that this “enhanced support will come in various forms.” Moreover, “increased funding” and “preferential commitments” will be “tailored to the needs of each country and to the regional context” and will “recognise that meaningful reform comes with significant upfront costs. It will take the reform track record of partners during the 2010-12 period (based on the annual progress reports) into account when deciding on country financial allocations for 2014 and beyond. For countries where reform has not taken place, the EU will reconsider or even reduce funding.”

As for “Market access”, the main idea put forward by the EU is to “consider allowing partners that have a fully functioning independent judiciary, an efficient public administration and have made significant progress towards eradicating corruption, into the non-regulated area of the [EU ] Internal Market for goods.” This implies very important efforts on the side of the partners and one should not forget that these efforts will have a cost that will be quite high. It is also important to underline the crucial aspect of the judiciary reform that, together with constitutional reform, is at the very heart of the current changes in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.

The issue of mobility is considered to be one of the most attractive rewards offered by the EU to MPCs for the progress they achieved in implementing the reforms agreed upon within the framework of the ENP action plans. The recent signing of a first mobility partnership with Morocco is, in this regard, of particular importance as the issue of visa facilitation and the conclusion of a readmission agreement has been on the negotiation table for a number of years. It is clear that in the responses provided by the Commission regarding the Arab Spring special emphasis was on youth and more particularly students which is, of course, a very appropriate response by the EU.

Another question addressed some of the main issues at stake within the framework of the Communication on “Delivering on a New European Neighbourhood Policy”: the “more for more” approach, “mutual accountability”, “partnerships with civil society”, “recognition of the special role of women in reshaping both politics and society” and, finally, “increased differentiation and mobility of people (mobility partnerships)”. We will not return to the issue of mobility previously addressed but concentrate on the reinforcement of the ENP methodology.

Graph 5: Assessing the relevance of the principles guiding the renewal of the ENP (average on a scale of 0-10, where 0 stands for not relevant and 10 for very relevant)

Source: Compiled by the IEMed based on the results of the 4th Euromed Survey

The “more for more” and differentiation concepts are not new in the ENP framework. On the contrary, these two principles were, from the beginning, at the very heart of an ENP methodology that draws on the pre-accession one. The basic idea is thus to reinforce these elements. However, what is obvious is that the incentives should be equally reinforced. It seems now that the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas that are proposed to Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt are becoming the real incentives for a deeper commitment. This commitment to fulfil the objectives of the ENP, to implement the reforms identified in the ENP action plans and to respect certain values now enclosed in a “deep democracy criteria” will lead to “deeper economic integration.”

What will be crucial is how the European External Action Service (EEAS ) and the Commission evaluate the progress achieved by the respective partners. One should not forget that when the uprising started in Tunisia this country was negotiating a kind of “privileged status” with the EU ! Consistency should be a key guiding principle in this exercise together with transparency and ownership. It will also be crucial to reinforce the visibility (Q. 14) of the EU ’s actions on the ground but also of its grand strategy. In fact, those two issues are closely linked. Without consistency it will be very difficult for the EU to gain visibility but visibility does not mean sending high-level EU officials to MPCs every week. This can even create some confusion given the proliferation of posts in the framework of the Lisbon Treaty.

Visibility also means clarity and efficiency. These are some of the numerous challenges the EU will have to face. Let’s hope that the EU will be able to cope with an increasingly complex Mediterranean world.