In July, 2008, a sumptuous dinner was held in the Grand Palais in Paris, attended by delegates from twenty-seven E.U. members and sixteen Mediterranean countries. The dinner was said to have cost a million euros. It launched a new association, in a close relationship with the E.U., built on the common interests of southern European, Middle Eastern and North African countries around the Mediterranean Sea, including Israel and the PLO. Its masterminds were two presidents: Nicolas Sarkozy and Hosni Mubarak.
It had these key initiatives on its agenda:
- the de-pollution of the Mediterranean Sea, including coastal and protected marine areas;
- the establishment of maritime and land highways that connect ports and improve rail connections so as to facilitate movement of people and goods;
- a joint civil protection program on prevention, preparation and response to natural and man-made disasters;
- a Mediterranean solar energy plan that explores opportunities for developing alternative energy sources in the region;
- a Euro-Mediterranean University, inaugurated in Slovenia in June 2008;
- the Mediterranean Business Development Initiative, which supports small businesses operating in the region by first assessing their needs and then providing technical assistance and access to finance.
The organization never took off and is now in shambles. Voices have been raised demanding a new approach that is “to be built on the ground and not in palaces.”
Last Monday, Mehdie Houa, the new Tunisian Minister of Trade, demanded that the E.U. has “to treat us as equals. That is more important than money.”
Source: Die Zeit, February 19