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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La Méditerranée de Sarkozy toujours à sec

by Gaël de Santis

Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Still Dry

Translated Sunday 17 January 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Derek Hanson

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) appointed its general secretary yesterday. A pet project of Sarkozy’s, its handicaps are: lack of funds and dearth of diplomatic ambition.

The represenatives of the members of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) met in Bruxels yesterday to designate their general secretary. The top-rank civil servants appointed a Jordanian, Ahmad Massa’deh, currently Jordanian ambassador to the EU. If this marks a step forward towards the formalization of the Union, the Union itself remains an empty shell, considering the objectives initially set for it by Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Union for the Mediterranean was founded in Paris on July 13, 2008, during a meeting of 47 heads of State from countries around the Mediterranean, on the initiative of the French EU presidency. In order to avoid sensitive political and diplomatic issues, Nicolas Sarkozy had limited the Union’s mission to setting up ’common projects": infrastructures, de-pollution, management of water resources etc.

Only few projects have been launched as yet , and money is sadly wanting. The question of funding had already derailed the 1995 Barcelona process that had preceded the Union.

The Union for the Mediterranean has been barely puffing along since Israel launched the operation Molten Lead late in 2008 against another UfM member country. The war ended in the massacre of 1,400 Palestinians. Such an attitude provoked a UfM boycott by Arab States. Since then Sarkozy’s UM co-president, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, has persuaded the Arab States to come back to the negotiating table, but their foreign ministers still refuse to meet their Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, a notorious far-right politician. "There is still no general agreement for political reasons," unwillingly conceded Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister. during a meeting in Cairo last week. Last April, Israel had gone back on a previous UfM declaration that supported a bi-national solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Other diplomatic disagreements slow down the UfM’s progress. Marocco pursues its colonization of Western Sahara. And Algeria is set to denounce its free-trade agreement with the EU, which it says was negotiated in unfavourable circumstances.

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