The Euro-Mediterranean Summit held in Barcelona on November 27-28, 2005 was a fiasco. Presided over by Great Britain and conspicuous by the absence of many Arab Heads of State, the meeting, which should have updated the association between the Mediterranean nations and the EU 25 failed to issue a final document and only made a statement in principle against terrorism. The European personalities in charge, however, spared no compliments about the Euro-Mediterranean association, just before and during the summit. In this spirit, Javier Solana, José Manuel Barroso, Tony Blair and José Luis Zapatero expressed very similar opinions in public praising the great achievements of the Barcelona process and calling for an acceleration of the reforms in the countries south of the Mediterranean.
The Euro-Mediterranean Summit held in Barcelona on November 27-28 was a fiasco. Though it should have renewed the association between the Mediterranean nations and the EU 25, the meeting, presided over by Great Britain and marked by the absence of many Arab Heads of State, failed to issue a final document and reached only a statement in principle against terrorism. Once again, this summit showed the EU’s inability to preserve a consistent and common foreign policy. It must be noted, however, that the Euro-Mediterranean association has been severely affected for the last ten years by the conflict between Israel and the Arab states. In 1995, euphoric over the signature of the Oslo Agreements two years before, Europe considered itself capable of having a unique policy in relation to the group of Mediterranean countries and building, on a long-term basis, a common market for the entire region. That goal soon lost validity and all that remains today are the bilateral relationships between some European states or the EU and certain Mediterranean states.
However, just before and during the summit, the Europeans in charge spared no effort being complimentary about the Euro-Mediterranean association. Javier Solana, José Manuel Barroso, Tony Blair and José Luis Zapatero among them published very similar views praising the great achievements of the Barcelona process and calling for the reforms in the countries south of the Mediterranean to speed up.
EU representative for Common Protection and Foreign Policy Javier Solana (Spain’s Foreign Minister at the time of the first summit) was the first to do so in the leftist Israeli elite daily Ha’artez. He said that the Barcelona process is a reform factor for the southern countries and the best method to fight modern evils such as human trafficking and terrorism. He also said that Europe could sustain the Israeli-Palestinian peace process through the Barcelona process by helping Palestinians to reform the Palestinian Authority.
In a widely spread debate published by Le Figaro, the Daily Star and the Jerusalem Post, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso defended the democratization of southern Mediterranean countries by means of the Barcelona process. He announced the creation of an assistance program from now to 2007 for those states that would become democratized. However, he was not specific about which factors would allow the judging of whether the “democratic” reforms will be cosmetic or real and whether the actions favoring western interests will be regarded as “democratic” reforms. Barroso also advocated the opening of southern Mediterranean markets and the creation of a Near East “common market”.
Finally, British Prime Minister and EU President Tony Blair, and Spain’s Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero, who is hosting the summit, also praised the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue in El País. Stressing the difficulties of the southern countries, they asserted that EU can help them improve their governments. Both social democratic leaders additionally expressed their confidence in the European Union’s ability to support peace between Israel and Palestine by funding the reform of the Palestinian Authority.
In short, the oratory is more or less the same: the Mediterranean countries have problems – i.e. a poor financial administration, no respect for human rights or democratic principles… – and they pose a number of threats to European countries such as immigration, terrorism, and organized crime. The conclusion is clear: Europe must aid those countries by reforming them through financial encouragement that will be granted only after they open their markets to Europe’s economies. Though the word partner is repeated, this has nothing to do with a partnership. This rhetoric is ridiculously paternalistic since the southern countries are the only ones presented as troublesome and incapable of settling their own problems alone while the European countries, though endangered by such difficulties, are still willing to help them generously in their poverty. At no moment was the fact mentioned that, in the 1995 Barcelona Summit, the condition for the opening of the European market to southern Mediterranean economies on a long-term basis was the previous opening of the latter to European exports.
The above speakers also agreed as to the effect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the difficulties faced during the Euro-Mediterranean discussions. They all agreed on adopting the Tel Aviv and Washington rhetoric according to which it is the reform of the Palestinian Authority that will bring peace to the Near East. The Israeli accountability in the issue was never spoken out. The ten years of European investments in the occupied territories were praised as a European way to boost peace, but nobody dared to recall that most of the infrastructure funded by Europe was destroyed by the Israeli army during the collective punitive operations against the Palestinians.
To conclude, Solana, Barroso, Blair and Zapatero agreed on the need to democratize the Mediterranean countries without specifying how. Bearing in mind the atlantist orientation of Solana, Barroso and Blair, the closeness of this rhetoric to Washington is not accidental and responds to common aims. The “democratization” of the Mediterranean would unquestionably only consist of supporting an opening up of the markets of those countries or the establishment of pro-Western regimes in them.
About the issue of democratization and human rights, the Cafe Babel site has published a review by Green Euro MP Hélène Flautre on the Internet. She thinks that the Barcelona process has failed to be successful largely in terms of human rights while the bilateral relations between European and southern countries have yielded much more promising results. However, this approach is limited and depicts the EU double standard policy. In fact, due to Israel’s opposition, there is not one single method through which the progress of the associated countries can be assessed as far as human rights are concerned.
The former director of the Mediterranean region within the European Commission Abrahard Rain also questioned the results of the Barcelona process in the Lebanese daily in Arabic As Safir. According to him, the 1995 Summit limited itself to good intentions without effectively implementing them. If there has ever been a reform, it is due only to the action of certain leaders from southern Mediterranean countries. The Barcelona process was probably a spur or served as a forum for discussion but had little impact. Abrahard Rain now advocates the intensification of the reforms again taking the West position which states that the reform of the Arab countries is the prelude to security.
According to French analyst Sami Nair, in Libération, there is nothing to hope for from the 2005 Barcelona Summit since the Euro-Mediterranean integration process has been dead long since. Nair denounced the European blindness and said that, apart from the official declarations, the EU killed the Mediterranean association to replace it with a “Great Neighborhood” policy: a bilateral relations system for all countries near its boundaries from Moldavia to Tunisia. Nair thinks, however, that there are particular Mediterranean issues that must be settled, such as the movement of foreign nationals or trans-Mediterranean trade. After having tried to achieve an opening up in the southern markets by dint of promises, Europe is now hiding its true intentions.
Israel’s government adviser Sharon Pardo also thinks that the Barcelona process is dead, at which he rejoices in the rightist Israeli daily Yedioth News. In fact, Pardo says that it is not suitable for Israel to join the same policy that its neighbors associate with. On the contrary, the privileged and bilateral associations that EU establishes with neighboring countries are an à la carte formula of which Israel can take advantage. Consequently, Pardo thinks that Israel’s aggressiveness toward Europe should be reduced so that Israel can fully profit from the advantages of interesting bilateral relationships, simultaneously rejecting anything that may harm “Israel’s sovereignty”, that is, the free movement of people and goods.