The Washington Post and AP reported on the launching this weekend of an effort to foster cooperation between Europe and the Mediterranean region. It was evidence that previous efforts – like the Barcelona Process – had not delivered, that Europe, the Middles East, and North Africa are interested in overcoming old enmities through common interests, and that the U.S. side-stepped its sixty-year leadership role in such efforts.
Readers will recall previous posts here that describe opportunities for the U.S. to engage critical countries across Europe, the Middles East, and North Africa based on a shared interest in protecting civilians through elevated cooperation in such efforts as homeland security. The vacuum left by an apparent lack of American leadership, as well as disappointing results from previous or other ongoing efforts through the EU and NATO created an opportunity for French President Nicolas Sarkozy step in.
Sarkozy urged the countries around the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday to make peace like European rivals did in the 20th century, as he launched the Union for the Mediterranean.
“We will build peace in the Mediterranean together, like yesterday we built peace in Europe,” Sarkozy told leaders from more than 40 nations in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, representing nearly 800 million people. “We will succeed together; we will fail together.”
Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak, co-presiding the summit with Sarkozy, said the union has better chances of success than previous cooperation processes because the new body focuses on practical projects parallel to efforts toward Mideast peace. This is exactly the goal that could have been championed through NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, which already includes such critical countries as Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. Combine that with the EU’s already existing EuroMed, and Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Palestine would be engaged.
Mubarak called on the new union to tackle reducing the wealth “gap” between north and south, and cited other southern Mediterranean “challenges” as education, food safety, health and social welfare. Had the U.S. been actively involved, we could have shaped this priority set to include sharing information, technology, threat assessments, and other best practices focused on combating threats to civilian populations (i.e. by terrorism).
A draft declaration obtained by The Associated Press says the Union for the Mediterranean is to be operational by the end of this year. It will have a dual presidency, held jointly for rotating terms by one country within the European Union and one country on the Mediterranean shore.