French Presidency — very successful, Czech Presidency — high expectations

The main expec­ta­tion of the Czech EU Pres­i­den­cy is that of con­sis­ten­cy when it comes to fol­low­ing up on the achieve­ments of the out­go­ing French Presidency.

The EU pres­i­den­cies of the Czech Repub­lic and Swe­den are expect­ed to focus their polit­i­cal atten­tion on Ireland’s suc­cess­ful rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Lis­bon Treaty and the smooth selec­tion of a new Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in June. Euro­pean gov­ern­ments will also be con­cen­trat­ing on imple­ment­ing the stim­u­lus pack­ages they have announced in an attempt to revive growth in Euro­pean economies.

French Presidency and the Union for the Mediterranean

The out­go­ing French Pres­i­den­cy is regard­ed as very suc­cess­ful. In addi­tion to deal­ing with the finan­cial cri­sis that emerged and the con­flict between Rus­sia and Geor­gia, the French Pres­i­den­cy still man­aged to launch its ambi­tious Union for the Mediter­ranean (UfM) ini­tia­tive at a heads of state sum­mit in July 2008 in Paris.

The fol­low up for­eign min­is­te­r­i­al UfM meet­ing in Mar­seille in Novem­ber 2008, is seen as a huge suc­cess by Mal­ta when it comes to instill­ing a very dynam­ic agen­da for future Euro-Mediter­ranean rela­tions. The cre­ation of a Union for the Mediter­ranean Sec­re­tari­at in Barcelona will see the long over­due process of insti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing Euro-Med rela­tions start to take place. Mal­ta has been allo­cat­ed a Deputy Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al posi­tion in the Sec­re­tari­at, and also man­dat­ed to estab­lish a Euro-Arab Liai­son office in Val­let­ta to coor­di­nate Euro-Arab rela­tions in future.

The project dri­ven nature of the Union for the Mediter­ranean in key strate­gic areas, will help start improv­ing liv­ing stan­dards of mil­lions of peo­ple across the Mediter­ranean region.

Mal­ta believes that the Union for the Mediter­ranean (UfM) projects, present­ly being dis­cussed, will boost the pace of imple­men­ta­tion of the cur­rent Euro-Mediter­ranean Part­ner­ship (EMP) five year work pro­gramme by spelling out a plan of action that focus­es on com­menc­ing a mul­ti­tude of projects in spe­cif­ic sectors.

De-pol­lu­tion of the Mediter­ranean is essen­tial if we and future gen­er­a­tions are to be able to sus­tain our way of life in this region of the world. We must be deter­mined to build upon the Hori­zon 2020 pro­gramme of activ­i­ties so that the qual­i­ty of marine activ­i­ty is safeguarded.

Anoth­er sec­tor that requires our atten­tion is that of mar­itime and land high­ways. The Mediter­ranean has been a strate­gic sea-line of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for cen­turies. If the peo­ple to peo­ple dimen­sion of Euro-Mediter­ranean rela­tions is to be fur­ther enhanced we must focus our atten­tion on devel­op­ing fur­ther motor­ways of the seas, includ­ing the con­nec­tion of ports and the mod­erni­sa­tion of the trans-Maghreb train route. Mar­itime secu­ri­ty and safe­ty are also sec­tors that need to be improved so that trans­ship­ment activ­i­ty across the Mediter­ranean does not risk the liveli­hood of coastal populations.

The time has also come for us to devel­op a com­pre­hen­sive Mediter­ranean civ­il pro­tec­tion sys­tem that can pro­tect the mil­lions of peo­ple liv­ing along the basin should a man-made or nat­ur­al dis­as­ter emerge. The neg­a­tive impact that cli­mate change is already hav­ing on glob­al weath­er pat­terns is already appar­ent. We there­fore need to pro­vide a civ­il pro­tec­tion pro­gramme that includes pre­ven­tion, prepa­ra­tion and response to dis­as­ter mechanisms.

The Union for the Mediter­ranean plan of action will also con­cen­trate its atten­tion to spurring alter­na­tive ener­gies research and devel­op­ment. A spe­cif­ic focus will take place on assess­ing the extent to which a Mediter­ranean Solar Plan can be imple­ment­ed. The volatil­i­ty of ener­gy mar­kets in con­tem­po­rary inter­na­tion­al rela­tions dic­tates that we explore the pos­si­bil­i­ty of devel­op­ing alter­na­tive sources of energy.

The Union for the Mediter­ranean is also focus­ing on strength­en­ing high­er edu­ca­tion coop­er­a­tion between Europe and the Mediter­ranean through the launch­ing of a sub­stan­tial schol­ar­ships scheme for uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents from Euro-Mediter­ranean part­ner coun­tries and an increase of mobil­i­ty grants for high­er edu­ca­tion staff.

The edu­ca­tion­al field is a sec­tor where more effort needs to be ded­i­cat­ed. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion togeth­er with its mem­ber states needs to trig­ger both pub­lic and pri­vate stake­hold­ers to work hand in hand with a long-term per­spec­tive to attract a larg­er num­ber of Arab stu­dents to Euro­pean shores. This will of course require an updat­ing of pro­ce­dures for visas, mak­ing them more user friend­ly for such a cat­e­go­ry of professionals.

Future Euro-Med pro­grammes need to ensure that peo­ple to peo­ple inter­ac­tion is at the fore­front, espe­cial­ly young peo­ple. It is essen­tial that a much larg­er num­ber of stu­dents from the Arab world are giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to study at EU uni­ver­si­ties. The Bologna Process must be made func­tion­al to them. The same goes for joint EU Arab research projects. The EU must intro­duce a pack­age of pro­grammes that seeks to tap into the wealth of intel­li­gence in the Euro-Med region via schol­ar­ships, sem­i­nars, and oth­er ini­tia­tives. The Euro-Med Edu­ca­tion Min­is­te­r­i­al Con­fer­ence that took place in Cairo in June 2007 has start­ed to serve as a cat­a­lyst in this regard.

When it comes to enhanc­ing peo­ple to peo­ple rela­tions, Mal­ta has already estab­lished itself as a region­al cen­tre of excel­lence in the Mediter­ranean through sev­er­al of its edu­ca­tion­al and train­ing institutions.

Mal­ta is ful­ly com­mit­ted to ensur­ing imple­men­ta­tion of the above projects to help trig­ger a more rapid pace of inter-region­al devel­op­ment across the Mediterranean.

The Union for the Mediter­ranean offers Europe and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty an oppor­tu­ni­ty to car­ry out a strate­gic reassess­ment that will allow for more polit­i­cal atten­tion and eco­nom­ic resources to be direct­ed towards upgrad­ing sta­bil­i­ty and oppor­tu­ni­ties across the Mediterranean.

The pro­pos­al to estab­lish a Union for the Mediter­ranean (UfM) must be wel­comed in as it has again helped focus inter­na­tion­al atten­tion on a very impor­tant geo-strate­gic cross­roads of dif­fer­ent civil­i­sa­tions and a cru­cial post-Cold War the­atre of oper­a­tions. The UfM should not be per­ceived as a fixed con­cept but a work in progress – the objec­tive is to cre­ate a ‘Barcelona Plus’ sit­u­a­tion where Euro-Mediter­ranean rela­tions are tru­ly re-launched on a more sol­id footing.

Malta’s active par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Euro-Mediter­ranean Part­ner­ship is per­haps best described as an exten­sion of its co-oper­a­tive secu­ri­ty phi­los­o­phy. It should also be regard­ed as a tan­gi­ble con­tri­bu­tion to cre­at­ing a Euro-Mediter­ranean region based upon the attrib­ut­es of pos­i­tive diplomacy.

The main fac­tor that should move Euro­pean and Mediter­ranean states clos­er togeth­er in the future are the mutu­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests they share: Euro-Med polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al coop­er­a­tion must be strength­ened if sta­bil­i­ty is to be secured in future.