Here is an interesting geopolitical question. What country in Africa, NOT located on the Mediterranean, is a part of the just approved Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)? See UfM map. This country is geographically larger than either France, Germany or Spain, more than twice as large geographically as Iraq, nearly six times the geographic size of Syria, and also larger geographically than either Egypt or Turkey. The answer is: Mauritania. (See world map).
On July 13, 2008 Barcelona Process : Union for the Mediterranean (Union pour la Méditerranée) was approved at the Paris Summit of the leaders of the member countries. The organization, though in somewhat different form, was originally the brainchild of French President Nicolas Sarkozy “who said its aim was to ensure the region’s people could love each other instead of making war.”
The Union for the Mediterranean is a 43-member community, encompassing 750 million people (ca. 25% from Arab States), and comprised of the Member States of the European Union plus the “states” bordering on the Mediterranean Sea and participating in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (the so-called “Barcelona Process”).
The goal of the Union for the Mediterranean is to improve relations between the EU, North Africa and the Middle East and to tackle common problems such as immigration, pollution and political unrest.
But already one day after approval of the Union there are signs that the leadership of the non-EU countries will have to struggle to muster up the maturity and the discipline needed to carry out such an ambitious project, which has been cautiously supported by the USA in the hopes of “spurring on Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.“
There is also negative opinion that the Union for the Mediterranean could serve to accelerate general devolution in the European Union.
Nevertheless, in spite of the obvious political problems involved, main areas of focus of the Union for the Mediterranean will be:
- improving energy supply
- fighting pollution in the Mediterranean
- strengthening the surveillance of maritime traffic and “civil security cooperation”
- setting up a Mediterranean Erasmus exchange programme for students, and
- creating a scientific community between Europe and its southern neighbours.
For an interactive map (in French) relating to details about the UfM (Union for the Mediterranean), see Making Mediterranean waves at the blog of MESH, Middle East Strategy at Harvard, a project of the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.