EU summit approves principle of Union for Mediterranean
( Xinhua )- A European Union summit approved here on Friday the principle of a Union for the Mediterranean, proposed by France, to strengthen and further the Barcelona Process.
The plan will involve "all member states of the EU and the non-EU Mediterranean coastal states," said a statement from the two-day spring summit that just ended.
The statement said that the European Council asked the executive commission to present it the necessary proposals for defining the modalities of what will be called "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean" with a view to the summit which will take place in Paris on July 13.
The establishment of such a union "enjoyed support in the council," Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, whose country is holding the current EU presidency, told a joint press conference after the first day session of the spring EU summit.
"Today we recognized the need to upgrade the Barcelona Process," he said at the press conference, in which European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso also attended.
"When the Barcelona Process was launched, it was a quite a different time," he said, "But now things have changed, we need to adapt."
He stressed that the Mediterranean Union was not to replace the Barcelona Process but to upgrade it, noting the process had produced results over the years after it was started a dozen of years ago.
The Barcelona Process was launched in 1995 to foster dialogue between EU member states and countries on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, including the Arab states (among them the Palestinian National Authority, but not Libya), Israel, Cyprus, and Turkey. The main aim of the process was to promote democratization, security and economic growth in the countries to Europe's south and east.
The prime minister noted that all EU member states would be involved in the process and work would begin in relevant departments within the EU to see if what should be added to the process.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed in his last year's election campaign to establish the Mediterranean Union stretching from Morocco to Turkey.
Germany rejected Sarkozy's original version of the plan, which was only to involve certain EU member states but be funded by EU money.
The agreement came at the summit meeting after Germany shifted side to stand by France.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy agreed on a compromise last week during a meeting in Hanover that all EU member states be involved in the plan.
"We are in favor of further developing the Barcelona process" because it was slowing down and must be reactivated, Merkel told reporters before the summit.
Under Sarkozy's plan, the union would have one secretariat, a joint north-south presidency, and periodical summit meetings.
The specific details of the plan are to be hammered out before a summit on July 13 in Paris under the French EU presidency to formally launch the Mediterranean Union.
About 39 countries, including 27 EU members and some 12 Mediterranean nations are to be covered in the union under discussion.
Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Syria and Turkey, to name a few, are to take part.