Sunday, July 13, 2008

Europe's NAFTA: the "Mediterranean Union"

This article from the BBC is a basic introduction to the Mediterranean Union:

Sarkozy opens Mediterranean talks
[...] French President Nicolas Sarkozy has opened a summit of 43 leaders in Paris to launch a new union between Europe and Mediterranean rim nations.

The union will tackle such issues as regional unrest, immigration and pollution.

Mr Sarkozy said its aim was to ensure the region's people could love each other instead of making war.

Earlier, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders expressed their optimism over the chances for Middle East peace.

Mr Sarkozy said the group "will build peace in the Mediterranean together, like yesterday we built peace in Europe".

Welcoming the presence of Arab states alongside Israel, Greece alongside Turkey and Morocco alongside Algeria, he added that the group would not be "north against south, not Europe against the rest... but united".


But critics have dismissed the new union as lacking substance, and diplomats say there are continuing disagreements over key issues such as how to address the Middle East peace process and a possible role for the Arab League.

The only leader boycotting the Paris meeting is Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, who has described the union as a new form of colonialism.

France and Egypt plan to co-chair the new organisation for the first few years.


Mr Sarkozy said the role of Europe and France was to help achieve peace through economic development, political initiatives and providing guarantees for all stakeholders.

He said the main problem was one of confidence.

"How can we achieve peace in this part of the world unless we build confidence, unless we extend the hand of peace and take the initiative?" he said. [...]

It all sounds very high minded. The article gives specific examples of some good things being achieved, and how the MU relates to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

I have posted previously about some people's concerns that there is a darker side to the Mediterranean Union, where it's laws and the European Unions laws could be merged, and used to stamp out free speech and political opposition.

World wide I expect we are going to see more joint political ventures such as NAFTA and the MU. There is potentially much to be gained by making cooperative agreements with neighboring countries. All such cooperative political entities can be used for good or bad purposes, depending on who is steering them, and to what ends. Like all things political, it needs to be watched and monitored. The stated goals are admirable, but it's the details, and how they are implemented, that are going to matter to the citizens of member countries.

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