|EuroMeSCo-Senior Officials Meeting: "The Interlocking of Regional, Subregional and National Initiatives: Continuity and Change in Euro-Mediterranean Relations"|
This joint meeting gathering the EuroMed Senior Officials was organised by the EuroMeSCo Secretariat under the auspices of the Slovenian Presidency of the EU. It took place in PortoroÅ¾, on 10 June 2008.
The purpose was to link debates on ongoing initiatives in Southeast Europe with those on current Euro-Med initiatives, be they regional, subregional or national. This meeting also aimed to further the dialogue between policy analysts and policy makers, bolstering the mutually-reinforcing relationship between the official and the civil society levels of the Barcelona Process.
The inauguration of the new Euro-Mediterranean University was held in association with this event, also at the Grand Hotel Bernardin, but on 9 June 2008.
To see the programme, please click here.
After an opening by Ambassador Gonçalo Santa Clara Gomes (EuroMeSCo secretariat, Lisbon) and Ambassador Veronika Stabej (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ljubljana), the meeting was structured into two main sessions, which addressed the issues of “Bringing Southeast Europe and ‘Barcelona’ Together – Sharing Experiences and Evaluating Region-Building Prospects”, and of “Competition and Complementarity: The Impact of National Foreign Policy Interests and Regional and Subregional Initiatives on Euro-Mediterranean Relations”. The first session was introduced by Ana Bojinovic (University of Ljubljana) and Dr. Karam Karam (LCPS, Beirut), who analysed the state of region-building in the Euro-Mediterranean area from both a European and an Arab perspective.
The second session – introduced by Dr. Tobias Schumacher (EuroMeSCo secretariat), Dr. Ahmed Driss (University of Tunis), Prof. Fulvio Attina (University of Catania) and Dr. Mahjoob Zweiri (CSS, Amman) – focused on the controversial Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) project. Discussions encompassed present efforts towards the creation and implementation of the UfM, the various challenges the project may pose to the existing “Barcelona acquis”, the extent to which the UfM and new bodies, such as its secretariat, will be linked to both the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the European Neighbourhood Policy, and finally, the legal and political repercussions this Union could potentially have on established Euro-Mediterranean frameworks. During the session, agreement emerged that the original French plan to create a Mediterranean Union of sorts had revived the stagnant debate on Europe’s relations with its Southern neighbourhood, placing Euro-Mediterranean dynamics at the very fore of the EU’s current foreign policy agenda. Participants were nonetheless reminded that if the UfM, and national initiatives in general, are not coordinated amongst all relevant partners, they have a strong potential to seriously jeopardize existing structures and ultimately undermine the EU’s (already fragile) credibility as a foreign policy actor in the Mediterranean region. As such, many argued that any future UfM must offer a true added value and further develop the present “Barcelona acquis”. In view, however, of the business-oriented mood that currently exists within the EU, as well as in light of the presumptive project-oriented focus characterising the UfM, serious doubts were expressed with respect to whether the UfM will manage to go beyond mere cosmetic changes and finally dynamize Euro-Mediterranean relations in an effective and sustainable way.