Working Paper - The Euro-Mediterranean partnership: balances and priorities

Meeting of the Socialist International Mediterranean Committee, Palma de Mallorca, 1-2 December 2000

Original: Spanish

Five years on from the signing of the Barcelona Declaration (November 1995), we would like to place on record our assessment of the results that have been achieved.

  • The Barcelona process has continued for these past few years in spite of the extremely negative circumstances surrounding the Middle East peace process. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership policy is a long-term strategic stake for the future, so continuity is essential. Euro-Mediterranean summits and meetings have been held and attended by all those countries involved, and Libya also attended the last two Euro-Mediterranean summits. On 15 and 16 November 2000, coinciding with France's Presidency of the EU, the latest summit was held in Marseilles. We must now hope that the Euro-Mediterranean process will be relaunched.
  • Over the past few years, albeit slowly, a series of Association Agreements have been signed and ratified. Following the lines of the Barcelona process to continue weaving a framework of vertical relations of EU-Mediterranean countries, as a basis for the construction of a free trade area.
  • Ongoing inter-governmental cooperation has been routinely evolving. Conferences, committees and working groups have enabled government officials and high-ranking civil servants to meet together regularly, so developing a joint Euro-Mediterranean agenda.
  • Projects included in the MEDA programme have been implemented, although there have been restrictions and delays.
  • At the same time, a political vision of a unitary Euro-Mediterranean partnership has been consolidated and developed in embryonic form; work has started on sketching out a cohesive set of policy objectives and challenges, strategies and instruments. This global vision is based on the concept of partnership: a policy of inter-dependence based on shared equality and responsibility.

The results obtained, however, do not mean we can turn a blind eye to the delays and failures that have in part defrauded the hopes and expectations raised by the first Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona.

On one side, the worsening of the situation in the Middle East has had a very negative influence. On the other, the priorities for widening EU membership have helped to weaken the perception of the nexus that exists between Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries and the very destiny of European construction.

  • There has been no decisive political impulse, and this is rigorously necessary. In reality, we can confirm that, politically, the Mediterranean would need to be the first priority for external EU action. The wideningtowards the countries of Central and Eastern Europe can be regarded as a question that has been resolved in strategic historic terms. There might be uncertainties about the timetables, the pace, the means and the costs, including any new conflict that might arise; but the final destiny of the process seems clear: these countries will be incorporated in the construction of a united Europe. There is no such certainty, however, when it comes to the Mediterranean, where the scenarios for the future are completely open. The policies being developed in the region depend, to a large extent, on the achievement of economic, social and demographic progress in a context of dialogue, peace and prosperity. Otherwise it might well become a region where the norm is the growing imbalance between the North and the South, the galloping poverty of the South, and the emergence of increasingly serious problems: violence, instability, terrorism, etc.
  • Without any decisive political impulse, the Euro-Mediterranean process runs the risk of paralysis and being bogged down in bureaucracy: more and more meetings, working groups, "micro" actions and projects, usually accompanied by a lack of political leadership capable of creating strong initiatives or steering the action taken towards establishing a gradual re-balance between North and South.
  • The economic and financial dimension of the partnership has faced obstacles and delays. Witness, in this respect, the problems experienced when launching MEDA programmes (only 26% were put into practice during the period 1995-2000), the excesses of centralisation, the standardisation of assistance criteria, internal problems, the shortage of projects in the recipient States, the absence of joint reflection on the possibility of a Mediterranean agricultural policy and, finally, the small number of direct investments in the South.
  • Both the social and the economic dimensions have also run into obstacles and problems (particularly support for the development of a civilian society, non-governmental organisations and the associative movement, which are all very important players for the future of the Maghreb). We still have a long way to go before we arrive at a situation where the resources available enable the action taken on the ground to be optimised.

To sum up, the fundamental problem that is raised is as follows: if we pay heed to the various prospective calculations made regarding the pace of economic and social change in the different Mediterranean countries, an enormously long period of time would be required to bring the social conditions of the Northern and Southern Mediterranean closer together and to achieve a re-equilibrium.

The EU needs to adopt a Mediterranean policy as its prime external priority and to develop new strategies and new forms of cooperation in the region to boost and to speed up its joint progress. The economic and social priorities, which all countries need to support, are direct foreign investment, progress towards a common Mediterranean agricultural policy, and cooperation in dealing with movements of people within the region.

The perspectives

It is important to also consider the perspectives for this updated Euro-Mediterranean agenda. For guidance only, the themes that appear to be the most relevant are set out below.

In the political sphere, our priorities are:

  • The struggle for democracy and human rights in the region continues to be our top priority. The drive for co-ordination between all progressive social and political forces in the Mediterranean, particularly those directed towards securing peace in the region and the general establishment of the democratic rule of law and respect of human rights, ofeconomic, social andenvironmental progress, and the emancipation of women from all forms of discrimination be they enshrined in law or reinforced by social practices.
  • A contribution of the Mediterranean world to the struggle for peace in the Middle East in the spirit of solidarity. We demand greater political and diplomatic involvement by the EU to help put an end to the violence and facilitate a return to the process of peace negotiations.
  • The reinforcement of South-South cooperation, especially of the Arab Maghreb Union, within the framework of a possible "sub-regionalisation" of the procedures and instruments of the Euro-Mediterranean process.

In the economic and financial spheres we support the following :

  • A process based on talks and negotiation to drive forward the outstanding Association Agreements.
  • We must now think jointly about a Mediterranean agricultural policy. The prospect of a future common agricultural policy in the Mediterranean should be addressed, one which would focus on solidarity and the effective and co-ordinated management of agriculture, fisheries and water supplies.
  • It is essential to implement an improved funding system for the Mediterranean policy of the EU. It is necessary to demand compliance with the Cannes Agreement of the European Council (which set a "ratio" of 5 to 3.5 for the resources destined for the countries of Eastern and Central Europe and those reserved for the third Mediterranean countries) and, above all, to direct funding towards the maximisation of its positive impact on the economies of the Mediterranean countries (relieving the debt burden and boosting sounder and more modern economies).
  • The further development of regional South-South cooperation projects and programmes (infrastructure, telecommunications, environment, water). We should back an energy policy based on the development of infrastructures and telecommunications which could establish solid networks across the Mediterranean region.

Finally, in the social and cultural spheres, the perspectives should aim at a gradual development of a Euro-Mediterranean socio-cultural space that would promote dialogue and cooperation between Mediterranean cultures and civil society.

  • The impetus must be towards a dialogue that is more continuous, that goes deeper, is more articulate and more visible between the cultures and the religions of the Mediterranean. Only on that basis will a global socio-cultural project be possible, capable of inspiring diversified and systematic action, that gives impulse to and reinforces the entire range of MEDA programmes, cultural networks, university networks, etc.
  • Ongoing dialogue must be pursued on joint questions relating to Justice and Internal Affairs, especially cooperation in matters relating to the movement of persons and migration (with greater reference to shared solidarity-based management of migration).
  • A policy of exchanges between young people on both shores of the Mediterranean must be encouraged. To this end, proposals will be put forward for the setting up of a Mediterranean version of the Erasmus Scheme. This will include facilities for the validation of academic qualifications and for students to be able to travel from one country to another.

The Committee has also debated the political situation in various countries of the region, focusing its attention on Cyprus. It supports the efforts of the Secretary General of the United Nations and the decisions of the Security Council for a peaceful and lasting solution to the Cypriot issue. It also supports the need to restore peace in Algeria through democratic transition aimed at establishing the rule of law, public freedoms and respect for human rights.

After a debate on the question of migration, it was agreed to proceed with an exchange of information and points of view between the various countries that make up the Committee.

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