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Analysis: A Mediterranean Rendezvous

Council on Foreign Relations

July 11, 2008
Author: Lee Hudson Teslik

Nicolas Sarkozy is nothing if not ambitious. The French president wants to overhaul his country's economic and military policies, redefine how Europe thinks about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and collective defense, and set things right in several former French colonies in North Africa and the Middle East. Sarkozy's latest project melds some of these objectives. Having recently assumed the presidency of the European Union, Sarkozy is pushing through an idea he first broached the night he was elected—a Union for the Mediterranean (EurActiv), which will formally come into existence July 13.

The aim of the new body, Sarkozy says, is to bind a diverse group of twenty-seven EU countries and seventeen North African and Middle Eastern states into a more coherent bloc. The hope is that the alliance will help members of the union to navigate shared concerns (CSMonitor) including immigration, counterterrorism, the environment, and economic development. The plan has had its skeptics. Germany balked when it seemed France might be moving to form a bloc that would rival the European Union without consulting Berlin. Turkey dragged its feet (Turkish Daily News) on approving the plan until it got full assurance from France that doing so would not affect its EU admission process. Britain's foreign minister (who supports Turkish accession) emphasized the point (EUBusiness), saying the Mediterranean Union "is not, repeat not, an alternative to enlargement of the EU."

Even so, it remains to be seen what the union will be able to accomplish. With such a wide-ranging group of member states—from Spain to Libya to Mauritania to Jordan (the last two don't even border the Mediterranean)—a cohesive policy agenda seems unlikely. The union's objectives, skeptics say, are broad to the point of being unwieldy.


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Copyright 2008 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.



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