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Thursday, March 20, 2008


Agreement on EU-Mediterranean Union hard earned

BRUSSELS, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Due to opposition among various members, the European Union has had to work extremely hard at its spring summit to gain support for the creation of a Mediterranean Union to strengthen and further promote the Barcelona Process.


In his election campaign last year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed the establishment of a Mediterranean Union to boost ties with the bloc's southern neighbors.

Germany initially rejected Sarkozy's original version of the plan, which was only to involve certain EU member states but be funded by EU money.

The EU agreement on the Union came at the summit meeting after Germany shifted its position to support France.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy agreed on a compromise last week during a meeting in Hanover that all EU member states be involved in the plan.

"We are in favor of further developing the Barcelona Process" because it was slowing down and must be reactivated, Merkel told reporters before the summit.

The Barcelona Process was launched in 1995 to foster dialogue between EU member states and countries on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean and to promote democratization, security and economic growth in such nations.

The Arab states (among them the Palestinian National Authority, but not Libya), Israel, Cyprus and Turkey are included.

Under Sarkozy's plan, the Union would have one secretariat, a joint north-south presidency, and periodical summit meetings.

The specific details of the plan are to be hammered out ahead of a summit on July 13 in Paris under the French EU presidency to formally launch the Mediterranean Union.

Around 39 countries, including 27 EU members and some 12 Mediterranean nations are to be included in the Union.

Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Syria and Turkey, to name a few, are to take part.


The establishment of the Mediterranean Union "enjoyed support in the Council," Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, whose country is holding the current EU presidency, told a joint press conference after the first day session of the spring EU summit on March 13-14.

"Today we recognized the need to upgrade the Barcelona Process," he said.

"When the Barcelona Process was launched, it was a quite a different time," Jansa said, "But now things have changed, we need to adapt."

He said the Mediterranean Union would not replace the Barcelona Process but upgrade it, adding that the Process had produced results since it was started a dozen years ago.

"It is now a question of working on this in different forums. It's now a question of doing what is needed so that this project can see the light of day," the prime minister said.

European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso, who also attended the press conference, said that an agreement was reached to launch the project as soon as possible, "with the principle that all member states will participate."

Sarkozy told reporters that a formal decision to transform the Barcelona Process into a union for the Mediterranean is expected to be taken Friday, the second day of the two-day summit.


Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk urged the EU to commit more to eastern states, such as Ukraine, saying, "we accept this agreement in general, but we also have our own proposal about Ukraine."

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek hinted that Sarkozy was working to reach national goals above all, as key points, such as what the exact role of the new union would be, were unclear.

"It is obvious that Sarkozy wants to make a name for himself during the French presidency and is focusing on a subject in which he has an economic interest," Topolanek was quoted as saying by the media.

European Parliament (EP) President Hans-Gert Poettering said in a speech to the summit that the EP should be involved as well.

Editor: Yan Liang