Mediterranean Union meets to find agreement
Foreign ministers from 43 member states arrive in France for an official dinner before Tuesday’s talks.4 November 2008
MARSEILLE - Mediterranean and European ministers gathered late Monday in southern France for a summit aimed at overcoming differences that threaten to constrict the newly-launched Mediterranean Union.
Foreign ministers from the 43 member states arrived for an official dinner ahead of a day of talks in the port of Marseille.
Ministers hope to reach agreement Tuesday on where to base the union's secretariat, a decision that caused disagreement between cities in European -- Barcelona in particular -- and the southern Mediterranean.
"It's no easy matter to get 43 countries to agree," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the EU presidency, told a news conference earlier when asked about the disagreement.
He said the question would "probably" be settled on Tuesday.
Tensions also arose due to the observer status granted to the Arab League, with Arab countries seeking a more active role while Israel opposed the measure.
Launched in July, the new union brings together European Union members with states from north Africa, the Balkans, the Arab world and Israel in order to develop cooperation in an unstable region.
The new union takes over from the EU's 13-year-old Barcelona Process, but which failed largely due to disputes between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
France hoped that by basing the new union on modest regional projects, such as cleaning up pollution in the Mediterranean, it would be able to avoid regional disputes.
[AFP / Expatica]