Magazine article Europe-East
EU leaders have given the go-ahead to a Franco-German proposal to create a Union for the Mediteranean (UM) to give a new impetus to the Euromed Partnership but further tough negotiations would be needed before an agreement could be reached on the details of the plan. The spring European Council has accepted in principle a watered-down version of the original plan set out by French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his election campaign last year, after a short exchange of views, on 13 March in Brussels. "We have agreed on the necessity to relaunch the Barcelona process but there is not yet a common position within the Council on how to do it," said Janez Jansa, the prime minister of Slovenia in charge of the EU Presidency.
The leaders agreed to change the original name of the project ( Mediterranean Union') to Union for the Mediterranean' (UM) to allay fears that the new body could become a rival to the EU.
Consultations within the EU and with the southern partner countries will take place in the coming months in order to formally launch the UM on 13 July, during a summit in Paris, under the upcoming French Presidency of the EU. Brushing aside the impression that the new plan was a simply a revamped version of the Barcelona process, Sarkozy hailed the European summit decision, presenting it as a new French success on the European scene, following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty. "Europe will not turn its back on the Mediterranean any more," he said, stressing that the UM would bring real added value and will involve the 27 member states, as requested by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "It is a Barcelona plus. But it is not just marketing, it is a political commitment," said Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the Commission, who gave a cautious backing to the project, under the condition that his control over Community funds would be safeguarded. "It is a very good compromise. It is an upgrade of the Barcelona process and I believe it will create a new dynamic," said Angela Merkel.
According to the Franco-German plan presented to the EU heads of state and government, the UM will be co-chaired for a period of two years by two countries respectively from the EU and the southern Mediterranean region in order to put both sides on an equal footing. "In the Barcelona process, there seemed to be a kind of senior-junior distinction between the north and the south," said the French president. However, the establishment of such a dual presidency is expected to be preceded by hard negotiations within the EU and with the southern partners. Some EU member states are reluctant to reserve the co-presidency for a country bordering the Mediterranean Sea, as proposed by Paris.
The second innovation, the creation of a small secretariat' of roughly 20 people, is also likely to spark controversy. …