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. The EU is also thoroughly involved in the international political talks aiming at finding a peaceful solution to the tragic Syrian civil war.
EU relations with its southern neighbors feature 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 a new network of relations endorsed at the Marseille Meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Ministers of Foreign Affairs in November. The Partnership now includes all 28 member states of the European Union, along with 16 partners from the Southern Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East.
This re-launching aimed at infusing new vitality into the Partnership and raising the political level of the strategic relationship between the EU and its Southern neighbors. While maintaining the acquisof the Barcelona Process, the Union for the Mediterranean offers more balanced governance, increased visibility to the citizenship 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, led by a Secretary General, which 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.
The assumption of the Southern Co-Presidency by Jordan in September 2012 and the participation of Libya as observer since February 2013 demonstrate renewed co-appropriation by Southern partners. Politically the revitalised Union for the Mediterranean has demonstrated wide benefits. The format provided by the meetings of Senior Officials / Ambassadors every two months is to date unique, especially with the participation of Israel and Palestine, and now also Libya, Turkey, Cyprus, Adriatic and EU countries, as well as countries of the Northern and Southern Mediterranean shores around the same table. The systematic involvement of the European Parliament, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as other partners, such as the League of Arab States, has strengthened the mobilisation in support of a revitalised Union for the Mediterranean.
After a lapse of several years, a series of UfM Ministerial meetings kick-started. The successful Ministerial meetings on Women (Paris, September), Transport (Brussels, November) and Energy (Brussels, December) held in 2013 and Industrial cooperation in February 2014 are proof of the common endeavour to work together in order to revitalise the Union for the Mediterranean and to ensure the efficiency of this unique forum of 44 Member States (since Libya joined it in 2013). The Next Union for the Mediterranean Ministerial meeting will take place in May 2014 and will be devoted to Environment.
Perspectives for further practical collaboration in this broad forum of 44 countries seem promising. The European Union will continue to carry out efforts to ensure that the Union for the Mediterranean's busy agenda will be successfully implemented.
Middle East peace
Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is a strategic priority for Europe. Until this is achieved, there will be little chance of solving 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 wants to see progress, not just process. To that end, the EU undertakes a range of activities – both political and practical – and is the largest donor to Palestinian state-building efforts.
The EU – with the UN, the US and the Russian Federation – is a member of the so-called ‘Quartet’, which in 2002 launched a ‘road map for peace’ aimed at resolving the conflict. The EU has praised the Arab Peace Initiative as a significant contribution from the Arab countries.
EU foreign ministers have described the closure of Gaza by Israel as ‘unacceptable and politically counterproductive’. In June 2010 the Foreign Affairs Council called for an urgent and fundamental change of policy and repeated an earlier call for the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings so as to allow a flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons.
The solution must, at the same time, address Israel’s legitimate security concerns over violence and arms smuggling.