EuroMed Logo Visitors

Legal Notice


Forum Events Workshop Library
The Mediterranean: Cultural Identity and Prospects

The Euro-Mediterranean partnership: space of homogeneous development in global perspective?




 Key words : regional integration - mediterranean region - euro-mediterranean - partnership- economic development-  Maghreb - international trade - Neighbourhood policy.

The Euro-Mediterranean initiative is at a discursive level an expression of a policy of regional integration among the Mediterranean economies. The Barcelona process is likely to present the Mediterranean as a project of regional integration setting up a typical model of development, which can be used as a stepping-stone towards more global and multilateral relations.

In order to answer the question whether the euro-Mediterranean partnership is a homogeneous and harmonious space of development, it is relevant at first to observe the EU initiative towards its southern neighbours. This initiative is apprehended as a special logic of development. In fact the cooperation of the EU with third countries and regions protracted the principles that the EU applies to itself, a model of europeanisation carried out through EU institutions and through the implementation of the “aquis communautaire”.

Thus the European Union can be regarded as the proto-type, which can be used to respond to the globalisation challenges. Interdependence and debordering are experienced by all the states of the world in a very similar manner. But, expansion of political regulation and democratisation, are not the same everywhere. There are great differences in this regard. However, diffusion and demonstration effects of the European Union model of development are obviously checked out in Mediterranean regions. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is a case of diffusion effect and as a regional project it is considered to be a projection of the EU regional integration.

Through its Mediterranean Policy the EU is seeking to promote its own model of regional integration, a market integration emphasised with a certain coordination or at least with a certain harmonisation of public policies. The Mediterranean Policy of the EU is in fact registered in a bigger frame, which is the development cooperation policy promoting a model of development incarnating simultaneously by an economical and a political logic. Thus the project of development offered by the EU is various and global. It imagines the EU to be a project of ‘open regionalism’ that uses its own internal trade liberalisation as a stepping-stone for liberalisation on a global scale. From this stance, European integration might be read as the deliberate facilitation of globalisation. This discourse presents globalisation as an opportunity for those prepared to adapt themselves to its logic of economic compulsion.

However the regional integration so far achieved in the Mediterranean region shows a limited success and the impact of this Initiative on the development of Mediterranean economies  remains modest at best and this due to both the Initiative’s own limitations as well as to the nature of the economic and political structures prevailing in the Mediterranean region. At this regard, we should mention that the regional reality in the Mediterranean didn’t witness any positive changes through the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Furthermore, the obstacles weakening its evolution does not seem to be solved as the EU strategy towards the Mediterranean isn’t final and still under conception. Moreover the southern Mediterranean countries are still facing severe challenges of restructuring and reforming. This makes the turn out and the evolution of the regional integration in the Mediterranean uncertain.

Having these provisos in mind, we should mention that the EU influence on the Euro-Mediterranean regional integration has grown stronger as deeper integration made process. The last feature of this process remains the new concept of neighbourhood policy. With globalisation and the creation of a trans-national civil society, the Union’s external relations determined to be no longer distinguished from its internal development, particularly when it comes to its neighbourhood, as expresses by Romano Prodi. Instead of trying to establish new dividing lines, deeper integration between the EU and the “ring of friends” is believed to accelerate mutual political, economic and cultural dynamism between the two shores of the Mediterranean. It therefore proposes that further measures to enhance integration and liberalisation should be implemented gradually and progressively, responding to positive action on the part of the neighbouring countries.

The question is: Whether the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is offering the possibilities of expanding the regional integration so as to become the real source of the region sustained development? How can the neighbourhood policy transform the obstacles weakening the Euro-Mediterranean emerging region in an asset? At this level this article is focusing on the comparative advantage of the ENP to set up a system-transforming mechanisms to alleviate regional complexity and stabilizing the “Euro-Mediterranean regional development”.

The ENP is declared willing to reinforce existing forms of regional and sub-regional cooperation and to provide a framework for further development. The Strategy paper elaborated by the European Commission contains recommendations on the development of regional cooperation and integration, as a means to address certain issues linked to the enlarged EU’s external borders. By developing further various forms of cross-border co-operation, involving local and regional authorities, as well as non-governmental actors, the EU and its partners can work together to ensure that border regions benefit from the EU’s 2004 enlargement.

In the south, European Neighbourhood Policy will encourage participants to reap the full benefits of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (the Barcelona process), to promote infrastructure interconnections and networks, in particular energy, and to develop new forms of cooperation with their neighbours. The European Neighbourhood Policy will contribute to develop further regional integration, building on the achievements of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, notably in the area of trade. It will reinforce efforts to meet the objectives of the European security strategy in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

The regional and sub-regional cooperation in the Mediterranean region and in the context of the new neighbourhood policy will be based on the results so far achieved through the euro-Mediterranean partnership besides introducing a special approaches adaptable to each country and each group of countries. The Commission is promising to continue promoting the regional dimension of the euromed partnership thanks to a significant financial support.

The ultimate target of the EU is to develop a framework in which the EU and its neighbours end up having relations similar to the political and economic tight relations that characterises the free European area. However this comparison does not stand and it is even unrealistic as the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is presenting a different institutional and economic reality than the southern Mediterranean countries.

This leads us to the second key element of the regional development in the Mediterranean: the south-south integration. A new Euro-Mediterranean region in which to build a shared prosperity area requires existing North-South economic integration to be complemented by South-South trade liberalization. South-south integration is a key element for the Euro-Mediterranean regional development, particularly in outwardly oriented development strategies, can enhance economic welfare through specialization and rationalization of consumption and production activities. It can also increase the region’s collective political bargaining power in extra-regional forums, and improve security considerations. Trade liberalization could lead to a relocation of resources according to comparative advantage and to the growth of intra-industry trade. However, some economic instruments are required both in order to allay political fears and in order to upgrade transport, communications and educational standards within the region.

Trade links among the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries have remained at a very low level. There is room for greater commercial integration, although the scope for an increase in intra-regional trade volume is limited. Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries face important political, social and economic challenges. Meeting these becomes easier if there is economic growth rather than the economic stagnation still suffered in some countries in the region. Indeed sustained, high economic growth is required if those countries are to address its unemployment problems, find jobs for the large numbers about to enter the labour market, and improve its social indicators. The main key to economic progress for each country is to reform its economy, taking advantage of globalisation by integrating into the world economy.

So it is not surprising to find renewed emphasis on greater regional integration involving groups of Arab economies such as the Arab Maghreb Union or the Unified Arab Market, fully encouraged and supported by the EU. The prospects for such integration efforts are boosted by improvements in the enabling economic environment. However, political conditions, particularly the Arab-Israeli dimension, are likely to limit regional integration efforts at this stage. What is likely to materialize is closer integration between subsets of countries in the region, particularly Arab ones, with potentially important, direct and indirect welfare gains for the participants.

The policy changes required for successful economic integration are the same as those needed if the countries of the region are to benefit from the more general process of globalisation and integration into the world economy. This point is best illustrated by the dynamic Asian economies, where outward-oriented development strategies have been associated with intensified regional economic interaction.

There are many indications, geographical, cultural or economic, that suggest there is scope for considerable gains from greater economic interactions within the Mediterranean region. However, the Arab-Israeli conflict and intra-Arab conflict, coupled with inappropriate economic policies, have kept south-south regional economic interactions at an abnormally low level in recent decades. Merely to restore these interactions to their natural levels would give an important boost to economic growth within the region. The developing peace process offers a major opportunity for enhanced economic cooperation within the Euro-Mediterranean. As Western Europe found after World War II, such cooperation strengthens not only the economic well-being of countries in the region, but also peace.

What is required to reach a homogeneous space of development in the Euro-Mediterranean region is on one hand a steadfast commitment by countries to structural reforms, including continued multilateral liberalization, along with the removal of impediments to regional economic interaction and a strengthening of the institutional framework. On the other hand the EU should through its new policy strengthen its’ partnership with the Southern Mediterranean Countries and to register its’ efforts in a lasting strategy perspective.