EU, Mediterranean and Middle East

The European Union is an active player in supporting  efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and contributes, also as a member of the so-called Middle East Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN), to the Middle East Peace process.

EU relations with its southern neighbours features a regional dimension, the Union for the Mediterranean.

The EU also has a region-to-region relationship with the “Gulf Cooperation Council” (GCC) made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Furthermore, there are also bilateral EU-relations with Iran, Iraq and Yemen.

Union for the Mediterranean

The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, formerly known as the Barcelona Process, was re-launched in 2008 as the Union for the Mediterranean at the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean in July, with the new network of relations endorsed at the Marseille Meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Ministers of Foreign Affairs in November. The Partnership now includes all 27 member states of the European Union, along with 16 partners across the Southern Mediterranean and the Middle East.

This re-launching aimed to infuse a new vitality into the Partnership and to raise the political level of the strategic relationship between the EU and its southern neighbours. While maintaining the acquis of its predecessor, the Barcelona Process, the Union for the Mediterranean offers more balanced governance, increased visibility to its citizens and a commitment to tangible, regional and trans-national projects.

Some of the most important innovations of the Union for the Mediterranean include the a rotating co-presidency with one EU president and one president representing the Mediterranean partners, and a Secretariat based in Barcelona that is responsible for identifying and promoting projects of regional, sub-regional and transnational value across different sectors.

The Union for the Mediterranean has also identified six priority projects which are at the heart of the of Partnership’s efforts, including projects for:  

  • the de-pollution of the Mediterranean Sea;
  • the establishment of maritime and land highways;
  • civil protection initiatives to combat natural and man-made disasters;
  • a Mediterranean solar energy plan;
  • the inauguration of the Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia;
  • and the Mediterranean Business Development Initiative focusing on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

Middle East peace process

Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a strategic priority for Europe. Without this, there will be little chance of dealing with other problems in the Middle East.

The EU’s objective is a two-state solution with an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state living side-by-side with Israel and its other neighbours.

The EU considers that peace in the Middle East requires a comprehensive solution. In this regard the EU welcomed the announcement in May 2008 that peace talks between Syria and Israel were to resume peace negotiations through Turkish mediation. These indirect talks are currently suspended.

In December 2008, the EU expressed the hope that Lebanon – Israel peace talks would be possible.

The EU has praised the Arab Peace Initiative, as a major step forward for the Middle East Peace Process, since it offers a basis for peaceful and normalized relations between Israel and all 22 members of the Arab League.

The EU undertakes a range of activities in support of the MEPP, both political and practical.