"Europe Faces Outward": The Barcelona Process with a Glance at the Maghreb

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"Europe Faces Outward" is the overall topic of our conference. I will start with some observations on the peculiarities of the European Union's approach

in its outward relationships. I will then focus on
the concept of the EU-Mediterranean Partnership
l book: "Pioneers of European Integration and Peace".1 Sherry has investigated the beginning of European integration with deep understanding and sympathy. She has carefully assembled and selected key documents, which illustrate the historic challenge. The book is fascinating to read and should be a must for all scholars on European integration.

Foreign relations has deepened with the Union's deepening. The European Union used to be seen as a civilian, primarily economic power. And, its international career, indeed, started as a global trader. The Treaty of Rome initially provided the European Economic Community with two "foreign policy" means, namely, the common trade policy and the instrument of association. And the Community extensively made use of these means.

The network of cooperative relationships with third countries and regions that the European Union maintains today, this network was already set up in the 1970s. The so-called European Mediterranean Policy was, for instance, launched in 1972. The first Lomé Agreement was concluded in 1975; cooperation with the ASEAN group started in 1978 and so on.

In the 1970s, European Political Cooperation (EPC) was established. EPC gradually developed and opened the way for today's Common Foreign and Security Policy. At the beginning, the scope for foreign policy cooperation was very limited. However, member states increasingly used the EPC framework for common declarations on international issues. A further field of application for the EPC was the Political Dialogue, which has become one of the pillars of the Union's association and cooperation agreements.

The association and cooperation agreements of the 1970s have been replaced by agreements of second or third generations later on. And every new "generation" of treaties has enhanced the substance of the agreements. In other words, as the European Union has deepened, it could also offer deeper relationships with the outside. Association and cooperation agreements became more ambitious and sophisticated.

The range of European policies has considerably broadened in the course the decades, and many European policy issues have an external dimension. Climate and energy policy are topical examples as are border control and the combat of terrorism and international crime. Accordingly, cooperation in these fields has become a key objective in the Union's foreign cooperation as well.

Record in system reconstruction
With the evolution of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and of the Common Security and Defense Policy in particular, the Union has also emerged as an actor in peace keeping and military missions, mostly in close cooperation with the United States and NATO. Yet, the European Union still is most frequently required in its capacity for system reconstruction.

The European Union has a record in the matter: The Union has been the anchor for reconstruction and democratic reforms in the transition process of former communist countries. Ten Middle and East European transition countries have by now entered the EU. Before entering the Union, the candidates had to qualify for membership in terms of the so-called Copenhagen criteria, namely, democratic stability, market economy and the ability of assuming the common acquis.

Comprehensive programs and measures in the Union's pre-accession strategy have supported qualification. For the candidates, the objective of membership, certainly, has also been a strong incentive to conform. Yet, notwithstanding the efforts, various problems still remain or have only been settled on the surface.

I am mentioning this in view of a frequent opinion that the European Union should and could immediately admit countries in problem to the EU, as for instance, the Kosovo and Serbia or eventually Georgia, the Ukraine and so on.
On the contrary, I tend to believe that an immediate EU membership would not really solve the problem of the countries in question. The Union would "import" their problems and would have practically no leverages to handle them after accession.

Serbia, like all the other countries of the Western Balkan, in fact, already has a membership perspective. The association agreement, which Serbia has just ratified, will set a process in motion that should prepare the country for EU membership, step by step. The European Commission regularly monitors progress and it is most important for Serbia and the Union as well that all steps are properly implemented.

Georgia and the Ukraine are partners of the European Neighborhood Policy, which per se does not offer a membership perspective. Yet, European ENP-Countries may eventually apply for entrance negotiations. And cooperation with the Union under the roof of ENP may help them to perform.
For the non European Mediterranean countries, membership is not an offer. The Treaty confines membership to European countries only. This position was also communicated to Morocco, when the country applied for membership negotiations in 1987.

Four decades of Mediterranean Partnerships
The Romans called the Mediterranean Sea "mare nostrum". And the European Community established relationships with the Mediterranean region from the early beginning. This particularly holds for the Maghreb states in view of their links with France.

The European Mediterranean Policy of 1972 devised a kind of roof framework for the first generation of bilateral association and cooperation agreements with individual Mediterranean countries. In November 1995, the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership was launched in Barcelona as the framework for the next generation of bilateral contracts.

The European Neighborhood Policy of 2004 has introduced a common strategy for the Union's relationship with its East European and Mediterranean neighbors. 2 Bringing those very heterogeneous partners under a common roof may sound confusing. Yet the strategy is only common in terms of the overall approach.

ENP does not replace Euro-Med, but aims at revitalizing and advancing the Barcelona Process. It builds on the already existing contractual relationships and introduces some innovations, which should enhance efficiency.

Following the traditional pattern of the Union's association and cooperation agreements, ENP is structured by four baskets, namely:
The political dialogue, including democratic reforms, good governance and human rights,
Trade liberalization, economic cooperation and social development,

Cultural and civil society issues and
Cooperation in justice and home affairs, especially regarding migration and terrorism
The fourth basket focuses on a better "management" of migration at the border. The tightening of controls has not and probably cannot stop migration, however, not to mention the human tragedies, happening at the border. The challenge is quite similar to that of the United States with regard to the Mexican border.

In contrast to basket four, the first three baskets contain the measures, which should prevent migration flows by altering living conditions in the countries. Key objectives are the improvement of the social economic and employment situation, respect of human rights and the promotion of democratic regimes. Yet, the boat people in the Mediterranean Sea may indicate that these key objectives have not been achieved in nearly four decades of European-Mediterranean cooperation.

Assessment of the Barcelona process
Reviewing the literature on the Barcelona process, the prevailing opinion holds that Euro-Med has not performed with initial expectations3:
First, because Euro-Med could not prevent the re-escalation of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and.
Second, because it has not achieved modernization and democratization.

Regarding the later, I have concentrated on assessments regarding the Maghreb. Here, the overall observation is that cooperation with the European Union has primarily benefitted the elites. The ruling classes have not been interested in democratization, as it would infringe upon their privileges. Authoritarian regimes still are in power and have largely eliminated opposition.

In the Maghreb states, democratization would include the admission of fundamentalist Islamic parties, which may eventually win elections, as it happened in Algeria. The goals of democracy and of political stability are not fitting together in the area, at least in the short run. And with this perspective, the European Union has become cautious on the issue as well.
The population is growing fast in the Maghreb and unemployment and poverty have increased. The young people have no perspective, which again fuels migration.
The EU, in cooperation with the local administrations, aims at facilitating legal migration procedures for workers "in demand". The Union will also explore the possibility of providing better information on the job situation in the EU etc. Yet it is pretty clear that it is the domestic economy, which has to create more jobs.
In general, close relations with the European Union tend to enhance the country's attractiveness for foreign investment. But this has not proved true in the Maghreb. An obvious explanation is that the administrative regulatory system and the overall business climate do not suit foreign investment. And, here again, Euro-Med could not significantly promote system reforms.

As an innovation, the European Neighborhood Policy has introduced so-called Action Plans. The European Union and the respective ENP partners together will identify priority issues for the next three to five years. Progress will be jointly monitored and the Action Plan will be regularly updated in regard of the progress achieved.
Action Plans should streamline the implementation of the existing Euro-Med agreements. But this, of course, mostly depends on the readiness and ability of the respective regimes to accept and to accomplish the intended change.

Morocco and Tunisia have already concluded Action Plans in 2004, based on the Association Agreement, which entered in force for Tunisia already in March 1998, and for Morocco in March 2000. Algeria is one of the few ENP countries that do not yet have an Action Plan. Its Association Agreement only dates from September 2005, and still requires basic implementation.

To complete the picture, the Association Agreement with Syria still has to be signed. Libya - and on the part of Eastern Europe Belarus - have not yet developed their contractual relationship with the Union.

The Mediterranean Union
For southern EU member states, the Mediterranean neighbors are much closer than Eastern Europe. Relationships between the European Union and the East were rather restricted at the times of the Cold War, but could develop after the iron curtain had come down.
At this time, a kind of "competition" occurred between the more Eastern European and more Mediterranean oriented EU members. Member states bordering on the Mediterranean Sea campaigned for a balanced treatment of their region. Since the elimination of border control within the Union, at the latest, EU member states have come to understand, however, that stability in both neighbor regions matter to them. Boat people, stranding in Spain or Italy, can easily set out for destinations in other EU member states. And the same, certainly, hold for immigration across the Union's Eastern borders.

The European Neighborhood Policy now links Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region in a common strategy. But it provides room for differentiation, which is already taking place.
The project of the "Union of the Mediterranean" has enhanced attention to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. The initial proposal of President Sarkozy had caused controversies on whether the project should be set up separately from the European Union or being integrated in the cooperation framework of the EU. The dispute has been finally settled in favor of the Union.
The "Barcelona Process: Union of the Mediterranean" - so the official term - was concluded in July 2008 in Paris by a joint declaration of the Euro-Med partners4. Trying to single out the element of the approach, which may, eventually, revitalize the Barcelona process, I would say:

Firstly, the Mediterranean Union approach underscores and may give new momentum to the multilateral dimension of Euro-Med. On the institutional side, a Secretariat will be set up with alternating co-chairmanship.5 The multilateral dialogue will be re-assumed with biannual summits, annual meetings on the foreign ministry level as well as regular meetings in various other formations.

The key word is "co-ownership", emphasizing the equal footing of the partners. But co-ownership also means that Euro-Med will only function if the Mediterranean partners assume responsibility in the process.

Secondly, the Paris declaration has given political support to practical cooperation projects. Among the issues are the de-pollution of the Mediterranean Sea, the development of alternative energy resource, such as solar energy, the construction of maritime and land transport capacities and students and academic exchange.
These are issues of multilateral concern which may deliver there own dynamic, once being set up. And, in European integration, the small steps often have achieved more than over-ambitious goals.
Summing up with some general conclusions, I would like to say:

The Euro-Med experiences, in my opinion, demonstrate the limitations of European, as well as American, endeavors of exporting democracy. The European Union only can give incentives for system reforms, which have to be carried through by the countries themselves.
The range of incentives is limited. They will have to derive primarily from trade and practical cooperation projects, supported by European money and know-how.

The United States faces similar challenges with regard to its Latin American neighbors. And it may be interesting, comparing the approaches and experiences. But this only is a suggestion for further discussion.

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Experts & Staff

  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
  • Kristina N. Terzieva // Program Assistant
  • Emily R. Buss // Program Assistant