Études helléniques / Hellenic Studies Volume 17 No 2 Autumn 2007 pp - PDF

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The Mediterranean Union from the Perspective of the Mediterranean Island States Roderick Pace* RÉSUMÉ Les deux États-îles Méditerranéens de l'union Européenne, Chypre et Malte ont un fort grand intérêt

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The Mediterranean Union from the Perspective of the Mediterranean Island States Roderick Pace* RÉSUMÉ Les deux États-îles Méditerranéens de l'union Européenne, Chypre et Malte ont un fort grand intérêt dans les initiatives méditerranéennes qui mettent l'accent sur la stabilité et la sécurité régionales. Comme la majorité des autres États méditerranéens, ils ont tous deux soutenu le lancement de l'union pour la Méditerranée. Toutefois, les deux petits États ont une conception différente de ce que l'upm devrait accomplir, Chypre mettant un accent particulier sur la résolution des conflits régionaux, tandis que Malte adoptant une approche plus fonctionnelle s'attache à la protection des ressources halieutiques et à la dé-pollution. Les deux États semblent ignorer les nombreux problèmes qui minent cette initiative, comme le manque de financement pour ses projets et les interférences entre les institutions de l'upm et celles de l'union Européenne. Une autre question est de savoir dans quelle mesure les deux États peuvent influer sur le processus interne ou si les rivalités internes entre les plus grands États membres de l'union Européenne pourraient les marginaliser. Ces deux petits États peuvent-ils jouer le rôle d'honnêtes courtiers que l'on associe souvent aux États faibles et petits? ABSTRACT The two EU, Mediterranean island-states of Cyprus and Malta have a strong interest in Mediterranean initiatives that enhance regional stability and security. In line with the majority of the other Mediterranean states, they both supported the launching of the Union for the Mediterranean. However, both small states have a different conception of what the UfM should achieve, with Cyprus laying special emphasis on resolution of regional conflicts while Malta taking a more functionalist approach emphasising the protection of fish resources and depollution. Both states seem to overlook the many problems which beset the initiative such as the lack of finances for its projects and the interface between the UfM and the EU institutions. Another issue is whether the two island states can influence the internal processes or whether internal rivalries between the larger EU states could see them side-lined? Can these small states play the role of 'honest brokers' normally associated with small and weak states? *University of Malta 147 Introduction The launching of the Mediterranean Union (MU) came at an opportune time when the Euro- Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) was in crisis.1 It was therefore cast as an attempt to free the EMP from the stagnation in which it had fallen. Now re-baptized the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the initiative provides both opportunities and challenges to the EU s Mediterranean island-states of Cyprus and Malta. Both stand to benefit if it shakes up relations in the region and encourages them to develop in a more positive direction. Therefore it is in both states interest to ensure that the momentum which the UfM has picked up is not lost. However, apart from these points of convergence, the two island-states do not have identical interests in everything and their approaches to the UfM differ in some key aspects. Cyprus thinks that priority should be given to the resolution of regional conflicts. This is no doubt motivated by its greatest concern, the Cyprus Problem. However, experience shows that the most dismal record in Euro-Mediterranean relations so far has been precisely in the political domain and in conflict resolution. Malta s main focus is more functionalist, focusing on the maritime aspect such as the depollution of the Mediterranean Sea, strengthening maritime communications and protecting fish resources all of which raise important challenges for the island and the region. The more salient points of convergence between the two island states comprise the need to combat climate change, deal with water stress and develop low carbon (alternative) energy resources. Both agreed that the Arab League should be involved in the UfM. They also agreed that the EU s Mediterranean partners participation in or Co-Ownership of the UfM must be strengthened. Cyprus and Malta (perhaps unwittingly) concur as well when they fail to provide any proposals as to how the institutions of the UfM will interface with the EU s given that the latter is the provider of the giant share of the funding for the Mediterranean projects and when they fail to make concrete proposals on how the extra financial resources needed to finance them will be found particularly in the face of the deepening global recession. What is also relevant is that the launching of the MU has instigated Cyprus and Malta to start refocusing more strongly on the politics of the Mediterranean region which they had neglected during the years in which they were negotiating membership and during the first five years of membership when their priority was the adoption of the EU s acquis communautaire. This new more outward looking phase appears to be slightly more pronounced in the case of Malta and less so in Cyprus s case which continues to be overtly preoccupied with the Cyprus Problem often at the expense of other policies. 148 For example, one could have predicted that in its reaction to the MU proposal, Malta would place a high priority on irregular immigration, but without neglecting the issue it did not place it at the very top of its wish list thereby indicating that it has a wider focus than immediate national priorities and is also looking at the longer-term prospects of the region. The latter point is interesting because, while EU citizens in general find immigration the least important issue for co-operation with neighbouring states, 88% of the Maltese think the opposite. 2 Hence one can expect Malta to press this issue more strongly at a later stage in the life of UfM. Also in the longer-term perspective, both Cyprus and Malta are aware that there are a number of challenges such as global warming, pollution, water and energy security to mention a few, which raise grave concerns in the region. Left unresolved these threats can negatively impact on their own security. Another important question is: to what extent are Cyprus and Malta, two of the smaller Member States of the EU, able to influence decision-making within the UfM in the direction that best suits their interests? Do they have the weight to make their views known and felt in the Union for the Mediterranean? These questions are discussed in this article where, as is customary in such analysis, I begin with a short summary of its thrust and objectives. The first part consists of a brief assessment of the evolution of the MU project from its inception up to its transformation into the UfM. This provides the background for further discussion. From there onwards, the analysis shifts first to a discussion of small versus large state behaviour in the context of MU/UfM, the dynamics of the Olive Group initiative and subsequently to the position of the two island Mediterranean States on the UfM. Relying mainly on public statements and information, as well as some interviews with diplomats in the field 3, the analysis seeks to scratch a little below the surface of the very generic statement, to which most EU Mediterranean states have subscribed, including Cyprus and Malta, that the UfM is a welcome initiative. 4 A third portion of the analysis and perhaps the most slippery is prescriptive: what should the two island-states be shopping for in the MU and what are they actually pursuing? In the final part all these treads are brought together and the main conclusions are drawn. The Mediterranean Union: The Battle of the Gullivers The Mediterranean Union was the brain child of the President of France Nicolas Sarkozy. Without going through the details of its development, this 149 section dwells on those aspects which are most relevant to the discussion in this article. President Sarkozy launched the idea of a MU during the French presidential campaign in early Initially it made no major impact, but when Mr Sarkozy referred to it again in his Presidential inaugural speech, the proposal was transformed from what many had considered to be a piece of electioneering rhetoric into a policy statement. The proposal immediately became controversial, partly because of its vagueness and for this reason it left many questions unanswered, but most of all because it irritated a number of key players. When it was still in its initial stages, it was interpreted as aiming to keep Turkey out of the EU by offering it a closer relationship with the EU within the MU. This of course angered Ankara which immediately sought and obtained clarifications that this was not the case. Hence the emphasis that has been made in practically all of the MU/UfM documents that it is not an alternative to EU membership for those participating states which are eligible to join the EU. However, it was not Turkey alone which was upset by the proposal. Indeed, Sarkozy s initiative led to differences between France on the one hand and Spain and Germany on the other. Following his election, Mr Sarkozy visited a number of countries in the Mediterranean region with the double aim of strengthening France s bilateral relations in the area and measuring support and enthusiasm for the MU project. On the first of these visits, which took him to Morocco, President Sarkozy elaborated on the idea of a MU in various speeches, though many of the major questions surrounding the proposal at that point remained unanswered. 5 In countries like Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt his proposal eventually met with support. But reactions in other countries such as Syria and Algeria were more guarded, while Libya eventually came out strongly against it, on the pretext that it would obstruct African and Arab unity. While Mr Sarkozy tested the ground in the Mediterranean region he also busied himself with the more important challenges to his proposal coming from Germany and Spain. The original proposal was that the MU would include only the Mediterranean littoral states. But this raised a lot of misgivings in Berlin. Germany rightly feared that if plans went ahead for a strictly Mediterranean Union on such lines, the EU would be divided. Mr Sarkozy later would deny that he had any such intention in mind when launching the proposal, which indeed, also proposed the inclusion of the European Commission and observer status for the northern EU Member States. German misgivings apart, Sarkozy s proposal also raised concern in Madrid where it was seen as an attempt to 150 eclipse the Barcelona Process or Euro-Mediterranean Partnership started in 1995 by Spain then holding the EU Presidency. In December 2007, Spain, Italy and France held a summit in Rome where they discussed all the problems and decided to work together. They agreed that The Union is not intended to encroach on the preserve of the cooperation and dialogue procedures already uniting the Mediterranean countries, but to supplement these and give them an extra boost seeking to complement and work in cooperation with all the existing institutions. So the Barcelona Process and European Neighbourhood Policy will remain central in the partnership between the European Union as a whole and its Mediterranean partners. 6 Time alone will tell whether this will be the case. With one major divisive issue bridged, the focus shifted to Franco-German differences. German s main bone of contention can be found in what the German Chancellor Angela Merkel later told Reuters news agency (after the differences with Paris had been settled) that the original plan would have split the EU and siphoned off common funds for the benefit of a few members and their former colonies. 7 Franco-German differences were resolved at a meeting in Hanover in March 2008 between Mrs Merkel and Mr Sarkozy. In Hanover, the two leaders decided to present a joint plan to the other EU leaders at their next Council meeting. EU leaders eventually approved the project at the March 2008 Council in Brussels. The Council decided to call the Union Barcelona Process Union for the Mediterranean (BP-UfM) and that it was to include all the EU Member States and the non-member littoral states. It also agreed to convene a Mediterranean summit in Paris which actually took place on July 13 8, and asked the Commission to prepare a document on the modalities for this BP-UfM. 9 An earlier proposal to have two summits, one exclusively for the Mediterranean littoral states preceding the grander union of all EU and Mediterranean states was also dropped. The Paris summit led to agreement on a number of projects falling under six main headings as outlined below. It was followed by another meeting, this time involving the foreign ministers of the EU and the Mediterranean partners, which took place in Marseilles in between the 3-4 November The main decision taken at Marseilles was to deepen the scope of the agreement reached in Paris, namely that the Union would be project-based and financed from existing EU financial programmes for the region, but with some additional funding from other sources. Existing Initiatives under the EMP were meshed in with the new projects agreed in Paris and gathered under four main headings: a political and security dialogue; maritime safety; an economic and 151 financial partnership including energy, transport, agriculture, urban development, water, the environment and the information society; and last but not least social, human and cultural cooperation. 10 Ministers also took stock of the state of progress of the projects identified in Paris within the following domains: the de-pollution of the Mediterranean, maritime and land highways, civil protection, alternative energies Mediterranean solar plan, Higher Education and Research as well as the Euro-Mediterranean University based in Slovenia, (a recent convert to the Mediterranean identity) and finally the Mediterranean business development initiative. Most welcome too was the decision to shorten the name of the initiative from Barcelona Process Union for the Mediterranean, to the simpler title Union for the Mediterranean. At Marseilles ministers agreed that the Arab League should participate in all meetings at all levels of the UfM, though it will only have observer status. This decision supported by both Cyprus and Malta was somewhat controversial as shall be discussed further on, since fears were expressed that it would lead to the isolation of Israel in the process. It was also decided that the UfM would be led by two co-presidencies and that the seat of the secretariat would be established in Barcelona. On the sidelines of the gathering, agreement was reached to open an EU-Arab League liaison office in Malta. In this respect it is important to note that the first ever EU-Arab League ministerial conference was hosted in Malta in between February 11-12, The Significance of these Events for Small States These events can be analyzed from various angles. Should the creation of the Mediterranean Union supply new impetus to the flagging Euro- Mediterranean Partnership, then it goes without saying that the initiative will benefit the region. But in the context of this discussion on the role of Cyprus and Malta in the UfM and the manner in which it has been launched, there are some lessons which these two small states need to ponder upon very carefully. The events show beyond any doubt that when a major, new Mediterranean proposal is launched by an individual state, which initiative may be crucial to these two island-states security viewed in its broader meaning, the divisions that may ensue among the bigger states can create opportunities and dangers for small states. On the one hand, while the Gulliver s struggle to have their 152 proposals accepted, the smaller states may see their importance augmented as the larger states canvass them for support. On the other hand they may also risk being left helpless on the sidelines with the main decisions being taken by the stronger contestants. In the latter scenario, the fiercer the struggle between the big states becomes, the more sidelined the small states may become. This may seem natural, but quite unorthodox from the perspective of most of the literature on small states in international relations, which often depicts small states in similar situations, as either being capable of exploiting the lack of agreement amongst the large states to their advantage or of acting as honest brokers in helping to bridge their differences. Numerous studies show how small EU states acting in either of these two capacities, have been capable of influencing the EU decision-making process to their advantage, to take policy leadership and break internal EU policy stalemates. 12 In the wider academic literature we encounter examples of small and weak states behaving as honest brokers in international organizations or multilateral negotiations. During the Cold War, the neutral and non-aligned states (NNA) played such a role within the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). 13 However, strong disagreements among the more powerful states have also been known to preclude small states from playing the honest broker role in such multilateral gatherings. Albert W. Sherer, Chief of the U.S. negotiating team at the Geneva Conference of the CSCE ( ) and at the Belgrade preparatory meeting (1977), observed that in periods of confrontation between the superpowers in the CSCE, the NNA found it more difficult to play their honest broker role. 14 Similarly, up to the Paris BP-UfM Summit, the small EU member states found themselves in an identical position. Furthermore, if in the future Franco-Spanish or other big state rivalry intensify within the UfM, it will be difficult or very tricky for the smaller states to exercise influence on the process. One potential avenue which small states can follow in order to mitigate similar situations from developing, is to successfully encourage prior consultation at all levels. This provides some peace of mind though the danger will not be entirely eliminated that new initiatives do not pop up out of nowhere. Cyprus and Malta thus need to ensure that informal groups like the so called Olive Group a gathering of EU Mediterranean states continue to strengthen their coherence in the future and provide a forum for real and timely consultation. They also need to work closer together, share information and try to pre-empt situations before they develop into standoffs. 153 The Need to Strengthen Cooperation If there is one general statement that can be made about the Mediterranean EU Member States, it is that in the past they have shown a weak propensity to coordinate their positions, particularly on issues that affect the Mediterranean region as a whole. One could at times also sense a prima donna syndrome whereby some states engaging in prestige politics vie with each other for the honour of being first with a proposal that would as it were shape the politics of the region. Of course, none of these initiatives have so far helped resolve the old Mediterranean conflicts in a definite way, though on balance they have led to some benefits, while the advantages of being first with a new initiative normally lasts for only a few months until the arduous tasks of putting flesh on the policy s bones begins in earnest at which point the original proposal might undergo acute metamorphosis. President Sarkozy s proposal for a Mediterranean Union has many of the trappings of this vexed approach, although it needs to be said that his initiative came at a time when the EMP was at a stand still and most EU member states and their Mediterranean partners were in agreement that it was in serious difficulties. Notwithstanding this tendency to work alone, the Mediterranean countries are beginning to realise the advantages of co-operat
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