BACKGROUND. The Barcelona process has its 15th birthday this year, which has involved more and more countries throughout the years. The core idea of the Euro-Mediterranean relations began with signing the funding document during the Spanish Presidency in 1995. Among the goals were the creation of a weapons of mass destruction and other chemical weapons free zone, a joint water policy, a free trade zone in 2010 and also the fight against deforestation and desertification.
Those years the Spanish diplomacy had an active role regarding the Middle East affairs, since it had created the Madrid Treaty four years earlier that put communication in the first place in solving the conflicts. At the same time the Barcelona conference was not in a good position since it took place only three weeks after the assassination of Jichak Rabin Israeli prime minister, who had been working for peace in the region.
Another major move in the Euro-Med partnership belongs to the French President Nicolas Sarkozy who aimed for the Union of the Mediterranean (UoM) in July, 2008. By that time the political initiative had been joined with twelve new EU memberstates and five Mediterranean partners. The UoM had pledged to reach the goals of setting up a Euro-Med University in Slovenia (done), the fight against the contamination of the Mediterranean Sea and an EU-like half-year rotation system for the representation of the Mediterranean countries. (Firstly it was chaired by Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, now it is not clear who is taking the lead.)
Besides the long term political economic relations we must mention the cultural and youth initiatives as well. Regarding these the German Goethe Institute and the Alexandria-based Anna Lindh Foundation play crucial roles. In their applications it supports the programs equally shared by the European and Mediterranean partners. One of its kind was the first Euro-Mediterranean Youth Parliament (EMYP) in 2007 or the first Euro-Mediterranean Academy for Young Journalists (EMAJ) in 2008.
According to Wadia Ait Hamza, the Moroccon participant of EMYP the Parliament had a key role in creating a peaceful and prosperi
ng region. Hamza created the Mediterranean branch of EMYP and furthermore organized the first EMAJ with other former participants of EMYP in Amman, Jordan. “Our main goal was to involve the most possible youth to discuss public issues through critical thinking and resolutions” – he told EMAJMagazine.
At the last year’s EMAJ conference took place in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, also participated Daniel Manhalter, the economic editor of RTL Klub Television of Hungary. He believes “in this environment we could understand that regarding our countries the Hungarian social problems can be solved.” Moreover he said to EMAJMagazine that during the conference “we were talking about the conflict in the Middle East, emigrants due to climate change and the French muslim community.”
Another participant of EMAJ Pawel Krzysiek from Poland, who because of the effects two years ago in Amman decided – leaving his PhD career – to go and work for UNICEF in Damascus, Syria. „EMAJ was the lifetime opportunity to not only meet but also work with and learn from the journalists from the Mediterranean region.” On the blog magazine a reader might know more about issues that are not really appearing in the media such as homosexuality in the Middle East, freedom of press and questions of emigrants.
The bilateral treaties, the aims to conserve the cultural values of the region, scientific networks among universities, the youth relations are all successes of the past fifteen years. Nonetheless, problems around visa questions, emigration, the difficulty of communication between Israel and Middle Eastern countries, and the unheard civil society in some countries of the region. It must highlighted that the Euro-Med region includes eight hundred million habitants. For some countries (such as Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro) it may mean the first step towards the EU membership.
November 27-28. 1995. – the signing of the Barcelona process during the Spanish EU presidency (led by Javier Solana Spanish Minister of Foreign affairs)
July, 2008 – Union of the Mediterranean initiated by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy
June 5-6, 2010 – Euro-Med summit during the Spanish EU Presidency
Current members: 27 states of the EU, Albania, Algeria, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey
Center: Barcelona (Spain)
Source: ec.europa.eu (the official website of the European Commission)
Originally the article has been published in Hungarian by Kitekintő. This in an edited version.