Cirkewwa, Malta: The importance of the EuroMed Partnership seen through the eyes of Leila and Daniel, two young people from Palestine and Israel, as they discuss war and peace with Claudia, a native of Berlin living in Rotterdam, and Francesco, a Sicilian resident in Paris, sipping beers in the moonlight. It is three o’clock in the morning in a fishing village in Malta and sleep will not come on what is the last night of a memorable meeting of young people from across the Mediterranean that café babel has been following for you. Four thrilling days of debates and workshops to launch the EuroMed Youth Platform.
Leila and Daniel are products of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP), an initiative launched in 1995 by the European Union to try to stabilise the Mediterranean, an area of unending crisis, in the – at that time promising - context of the Middle East Peace Process. Since then, little has changed: a demographic boom and poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment, immigration and illegal trafficking. Then came the events of September 11th when the fears fuelled by Samuel Huntington’s theories from the early 1990s were revealed to be probable, thus demonstrating that the EU’s intuition had been correct.
Ten years later, the EU is continuing to look towards the East with the planned enlargement next May. But if it is true that, once they become members, the ten new countries will attract a good part of Community resources, it must not be forgotten that the Mediterranean will automatically rise de facto to the top of the list of regions where the EU is expanding its foreign policy.
It is a policy that consists not only of the EMP, but also incorporates European efforts in the Middle East Peace Process. The two initiatives are officially separate within the policy as a whole so as not to rub Washington up the wrong way. In effect, the EMP is the only active multilateral organisation in the region in which the United States does not participate and, not insignificantly, the only one – apart from the United Nations – in which Palestinians and Israelis can still meet.
…and a missed opportunity
Until now, however, the EU has wasted this wonderful opportunity. The Mediterranean and the Middle East remain all too distant notions for Europeans and, unfortunately, not only geographically. The EMP, that foresees the creation of a free trade area between the Union and the countries on the southern coastline of the Mediterranean for 2010, is too often rendered incoherent because of the EU’s political ambitions. And this is bad news because the EU’s ambitions are political.
Our objective must be increasing respect for human rights in these countries because, when human dignity is offended, opposition to reform driven by fundamentalists is seen as liberation. Our objective must be to – gradually of course – force the downfall of the reactionary dictators who infest our homes because we hold values that we believe are universal. Our objective must be for these countries to become part of economic globalisation because poverty means illegal immigration which is not in our interests.
What should be done?
All of the above comes under the umbrella of politics and the Euro-Med Partnership all too often neglects this. We must be quicker to sanction and to reward; quicker to use the ‘aid carrot’ and the ‘sanction stick’; quicker to threaten to freeze co-operation agreements with Israel when Sharon, as occurred recently, splits Gaza into four watertight zones; quicker to make the creation of a secure and viable Palestinian state a condition of Israel’s entry into the EU; quicker to freeze aid to Hamas if attacks continue; quicker to promise more funds to the Palestinian Authority if security measures improve.
But, for now, EuroMed remains a series of extremely interesting measures existing in a vacuum. The EU needs to start being political – ‘Claudia and Francesco’ working with ‘Leila and Daniel’.