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PARIS 13 Jul 2013 Controversial Union for the Mediterranean five years old
The controversial Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) was launched on the 13th July 2008 at the Paris Summit with a vision of c

July 13, 2013 - NULL

PARIS 13 Jul 2013 Controversial Union for the Mediterranean five years old
The controversial Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) was launched on the 13th July 2008 at the Paris Summit with a vision of creating a union, modeled on the European Union, that would encompass some 800 million people. It quickly foundered. The leaders of the 43 member nations met only once, in France in 2008, and a second summit has been postponed many times. Before the troubles began, the UfM scored a notable achievement in bringing around one table rival nations such as as Israel and Syria, Algeria and

PARIS 13 Jul 2013 Controversial Union for the Mediterranean five years old
The controversial Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) was launched on the 13th July 2008 at the Paris Summit with a vision of creating a union, modeled on the European Union, that would encompass some 800 million people. It quickly foundered. The leaders of the 43 member nations met only once, in France in 2008, and a second summit has been postponed many times. Before the troubles began, the UfM scored a notable achievement in bringing around one table rival nations such as as Israel and Syria, Algeria and Morocco, Turkey and Greece. Five years on, the UfM occupies a splendid palace in Barcelona, Spain, with a diminished raison d'être.

Then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy launched the new union, urging the disparate and conflicted countries around the Mediterranean to make peace as European rivals did in the 20th century. He timed the launch to the start of the French presidency of the European Union. Egypt's then-president, Hosni Mubarak, co-presiding at the summit, pronounced that the member countries "are linked by a common destiny."

The bloc would tie southern Europe with Northern Africa as well as Israel and its Arab neighbors and tackle topical issues such as counter-terrorism, immigration, energy, trade, water and sustainable development. It would include only the seven EU states on the Mediterranean.

The summit only papered over regional divisions. Syrian President Bashar Assad left the table before Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave his speech, according to several sources. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reported to be reluctant to attend, reflecting a widespread conviction among Muslim countries of the region that the grouping was designed to keep Turkey out of the full European Union membership that it sought. Then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafy objected to the union and refused to attend..

The UfM had an awkward relationship with the European Union from the start. German newspapers attribute the postponement from February to June in 2008 of the regular Franco-German summit, a meeting that has a 50-year history, to tensions between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy over his attempts to create the UfM. Germany and other EU members opposed to bloc say it would weaken the European Union. Berlin argued that cooperation between the countries around the Mediterranean must take place within the framework of the existing European institutions.

At the summit, Mubarak asserted that the union would have a better chance of success than a similar cooperation initiative of the decade before - the 1995 Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Euro-Med), also known as the Barcelona Process -- because the UfM would focus on practical projects parallel to efforts toward Mideast peace. "The success of the Union will depend on ... reforms and durable development," Mubarak said.

Five years on, the prime movers of the union, Sarkozy and Mubarak, are out of office, and the UfM appears to have accepted that the political goals of the union are likely to remain unmet. The organization's web site focuses on practical matters, such as pollution in the Mediterranean, climate change, renewable energy and infrastructure projects. (WRITTEN OCT 2012)

RELATED READING:

Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean
www.ufmsecretariat.org/

France's Club Med Plan Riddled With Problems
http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,3366950,00.html

Mediterranean Union chief resigns as Egypt unrest continues (EU Observer 27 Jan 2011)
http://euobserver.com/foreign/31706

43-Nation Mediterranean Union Created (AP/Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/07/13/43-nation-mediterranean-u_n_112394.html

Working towards more regional integration (Cyprus Mail 4 Oct 2012)
http://www.cyprus-mail.com/cyprus/working-towards-more-regional-integration/20120914

Date written/update: 2013-07-13