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Background: The Union for the Mediterranean

Published on 14/03/2008

14 March 2008

BRUSSELS – The planned Union for the Mediterranean (UMed) is a new organisation designed to forge closer ties between countries with borders on the Mediterranean Sea.

First proposed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, it has since been endorsed by Germany and the European Commission.

The structure is intended to give a new impetus to the so-called Barcelona Process, the EU’s 13-year-old policy for dealing with its Mediterranean and Middle Eastern neighbours, by setting up a permanent secretariat and organising regular summits.

Sarkozy’s original proposal had been for the union to cooperate on issues of security, migration, the environment, energy, development, trade, and the fight against crime and terrorism.

The most recent proposals, however, only talk of "projects with an accent on regional cooperation."

Those projects are to be largely funded from the EU budget, which has set aside EUR 16 billion for supporting the Barcelona process until 2013. However, funds from other sources, including private ones, could also be involved.

Once in place, the union should group such diverse countries as Turkey and Spain, Slovenia and Libya, Israel and Syria. It will also be open to all 27 members of the EU.

The union is to be chaired by two countries at a time, one from the EU and one outside it, for two years. Once all EU members with a Mediterranean coastline have held the post, members will have to decide whether non-Mediterranean EU states can also head it.

Unlike the EU, with its thousands of bureaucrats, the UMed will only have a full-time secretariat of some 20 people under two directors, one from an EU state and one not.

[Copyright dpa 2008]