Europe and the Mediterranean Talking, Learning, Working, and Living Together 1
Europe Bottom Up-Nr.11 | Europe and the Mediterranean Talking, Learning, Working, and Living Together 1
Foreword The Romans called the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum (Our Sea). But even before, and particularly after the end of the Roman Empire, a succession of powers originating from all sides, has been struggling over centuries to answer the question whose sea it really ought to be. Throughout the 19th century and until the end of World War II, various European powers claimed predominance.
In the early 1970s, the Mediterranean reentered the European scene, when the European Community (EC) decided to establish a common foreign policy for the then six member states. In the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957, the special relationship with the countries of Northern Africa had already been recognized; in the 1960s association agreements had been concluded with Greece and Turkey. Treaties regarding trade relations with single Mediterranean countries followed up until 1971. In November of 1972, however, the Council decided to change the approach and base the relationship on principles of a Global Mediterranean Policy. Equal conditions would be offered to any Mediterranean country (and Jordan), in case they wished to embark on a closer economic relationship. At the same time, due to pressure from various Arab governments, efforts were made by Europeans to contribute to solving political conflicts in the Mediterranean, first and foremost the Palestinian-Israeli issue. The Euro-Arab Dialogue and the Venice Declaration (1980) were the results of these efforts and they were to play a significant political role in Europe’s neighbourhood.
After the end of the East-West conflict, the role of the enlarged European Union (EU) in its immediate neighbourhood became the subject of intense debates. There were voices advocating two separate areas of responsibility: an alliance between Central and East-Central, East, and South-East Europe based on the partners’ geographical proximity and historical relationship; and an alliance between the EU’s Mediterranean members and the countries on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Eventually, the answer to this was the Barcelona Process, initiated in 1995; the EU at large would be in charge of shaping the relationship with both their eastern and southern neighbours.
Ten years on, an assessment concluded that the Barcelona Process had not been a success story. The reasons were manifold: a lack of readiness for fair economic cooperation, serious political divergencies, conflicting interests, and deep rooted mistrust regarding the other side’s commitment to come to arrangements on an equal footing. The (most commonly French) idea of replacing or supplementing the Barcelona Process by an initiative for a Mediterranean Union however, met with doubt and resistance on both sides. from the beginning, and became obsolete when the Arab Spring broke out at the end of 2010. …