Royal Palace of Pedralbes, headquarters of the Secretariat General of the Union for the Mediterranean
Euro-Mediterranean Partnership: from the Barcelona Process to the Union for the Mediterranean

Mediterranean cooperation and development are the goals of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), a regional integration alliance that fosters peace and prosperity for a region with 750 million inhabitants

​With a view to increasing the potential for regional integration and cohesion, the UfM was set up as a multilateral partnership on 13 July 2008 at the Paris Summit. The Union for the Mediterranean encompasses 42 countries – there were 43 until Syria decided to freeze its membership in December 2011 – and more than 750 million citizens from countries with shores on the Mediterranean and all Member States of the European Union. It is founded on the shared history of this geographic area and, from a more practical point of view, on cooperation in specific projects that are more apparent for citizens and that foster regional integration.

The proposal to set up the UfM was launched in May 2007 by Nicolas Sarkozy, shortly following his election as President of the French Republic. Although in principle it was only intended for participation from countries on the shores of the Mediterranean, at the request of Spain and Germany, this plan was modified to include all of the Member States of the EU, given that the policies related to the Mediterranean are policies that affect the European Union as a whole. Founded as a new partnership for renewed progress, the Union for the Mediterranean is based on the Barcelona Declaration and its goals, as well as based on the acquis of the Barcelona Process, underline the need for improved shared appropriation from all its participants and a greater sense of belonging and visibility for its citizens.

The Barcelona Process was born out of a vocation to convert the Mediterranean region into a common space for peace, stability, prosperity and security, for promoting intense political dialogue and boosting economic and financial cooperation, as well as for fostering a social, cultural and human partnership. This was a qualitative leap in Renewed Mediterranean Policy launched years earlier by the European Commissioner, Abel Matutes, which also adopted a structure of cooperation divided into “three strands”, following the successful model of the OSCE.

Despite its success in some areas, the Barcelona Process suffered delays and criticism as being too dependent upon the European Commission and on the development of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Accordingly, the Union for the Mediterranean was designed to achieve peace and cooperation with renewed optimism through technical cooperation on projects in six main key areas: the environment and water, transport and urban development, business development, energy, higher education and research, and civil protection.

The work of the UfM is driven by a north-south co-presidency, which is currently exercised by the External Action Service of the EU – in representation of its Member States – and Jordan. It also has a Secretariat, headquartered in Barcelona and headed up by Fathallah Sijilmassi. The activities of the Secretariat are supervised by the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM), the body entrusted with guaranteeing compliance with the guidelines deriving from the Summit of Heads of State and Government, and from the Ministerial Conferences of Ministers for Foreign Affairs and of specific sectors.

The Secretariat of the UfM is financed by contributions from the European Union and the States Parties. The Union for the Mediterranean has no specific budget to finance its projects, since it was conceived as an instrument to mobilise private funds from investment and development banks and other international bodies.

After the revision of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the meetings of foreign affairs ministers of the UfM in November 2015 and January 2017 in Barcelona, the UfM is entering a phase in which, once consolidated, it will be projected as the best space to develop Euro-Mediterranean relations and the multilateral framework of the Southern European Neighbourhood Policy, complementing bilateral relations between the EU and these countries, and to coordinate initiatives with a Mediterranean scope. At their latest meeting in Barcelona in January 2017, the foreign affairs ministers approved a road map for the coming years, a strategic document for action in which the interrelationship between the political dimension and its operational transfer through projects in priority activity areas (inclusive growth, young people, women, sustainable development) constitutes the response to its main challenges to regional stability, human development and regional integration.

 

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