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June 17/09. The French Foreign Ministry has announced that the Union for the Mediterranean, a project aimed at boosting ties between the European Union and Mediterranean states, is to be formally revived at the end of this month. The announcement follows a meeting of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who jointly hold the presidency of the new bloc.

The project, which was first proposed by then EU President Nicolas Sarkozy and came into being this time last year, has been fraught with difficulties. Northern European countries disliked the idea of EU funds being spent on a grandiose scheme that would show favouritism to southern members of the union. So membership was increased to accommodate the entire European Union.

Arab nations also signalled their unwillingness to join the union due to Israel's inclusion in the group, fearing their participation might lend legitimacy to Israel's right to exist. But Arab opposition to the project was overcome when the EU offered the Arab League observer status within the new organization. The EU also sweetened the deal for Israel, increasing its representation within the group. Libya refused to join the union over Israel's inclusion, and instead was granted observer status until Gaddafi changes his mind.

And it seems that the recent thaw in relations between Libya and Italy may pave the way for Libyan membership in the Mediterranean Union. Operation Cast Lead, launched against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last year, was used as an excuse by Arab nations not to participate in the EU project, even though it was the breaking of the Hamas ceasefire that precipitated the fighting.

But now with a new American administration in power that is seeking to repair its reputation in the Muslim world, the EU is aiming to revive its Mediterranean project with a goal to kick-starting the peace process and expanding its sphere of influence over the region.

By Chris Perver / Full article>





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