French, Italian, Spanish leaders back Mediterranean Union plan

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Countries announce a July summit in Paris of the countries bordering the sea.

ROME, 21 December, 2007 - France, Italy and Spain united behind a planned
Mediterranean Union on Thursday, announcing a July summit in Paris of the
countries bordering the sea.
   French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the July 13 summit at a joint
news conference in Rome with the Italian and Spanish prime ministers, Romano
Prodi and Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
   The three leaders earlier discussed the plan to establish an EU-type union
of the zone in talks in the Italian capital.
   "Convinced that the Mediterranean, crucible of culture and civilisation,
should resume its role as a zone of peace, prosperity and tolerance," the
three leaders said they had met to "think about the broad outlines of a
planned union for the Mediterranean."
   The bloc "would have a mission to reunite Europe and Africa around the
countries along the Mediterranean rim and to set up a partnership on an equal
footing between the countries" north and south of the sea, they said.
   "The added value of the Mediterranean Union should reside first in the
political boost it should give to cooperation around the Mediterranean and the
mobilisation of civil societies, businesses, local communities, associations
and NGOs (non-governmental organisations)," the statement said.
   The Paris summit will precede by a day an EU summit on July 14 in Brussels.
   The Mediterranean Union will focus on "peace, development and respect for
the environment," Sarkozy said separately. "It's a great dream, a great
vision, which I'm sure can be realised. We three have decided that this will
be a united Mediterranean, a war against despair."
   Sarkozy advocates the grouping partly as an alternative to Turkish
membership of the European Union. Italy favours Ankara's entry into the EU.
   The plan also comes against the backdrop of attacks in Algeria, and other
north African states on the Mediterranean, by the group calling itself
Al-Qaeda's Branch in the Islamic Maghreb.




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