Israel-EU: Union for the Mediterranean
Israel was an important founding member of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (also known as the Barcelona Process), and now wishes to continue taking an active part as the partnership takes new shape with the Union for the Mediterranean.
The Barcelona Process which was launched in 1995 with the Barcelona Declaration, set the framework for political, economic and social relations between the EU and its Mediterranean neighbors, including Israel. It comprised three major facets of cooperation: (1) political dialogue; (2) Regional economic cooperation; (3) Social and cultural cooperation.
At the summit of heads of state and government held in Paris in July 2008 Euromed was reincarnated as the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). The new framework brought about some important organizational changes. Among these changes, the most noteworthy were the formation of a joint north-south Co-Presidency, the identification of 6 major projects of cooperation, and the decision on the establishment of a permanent secretariat. It also introduced several new partners to the initiative, representing mostly the Aegean region, bringing the number of partner countries to 43.
Both during the Euromed years and currently within the new UfM framework Israel has participated in the many official meetings and technical programs it has encompassed (with the exception of Israel’s non-eligibility to aid money under the former MEDA instrument, due to its high level of development). Israeli Ministers of Foreign Affairs participated in all the Foreign Minister's Euromed conferences that were held so far, as well as the Marseille conference in November 2008 which cemented the creation of the UfM. This is an indication of the high level of importance attached by Israel to such high level regional meetings.
Additionally, Israel has taken an active part in the Senior Official meetings of the national coordinators, and other Euro-Med committees. One of the main advantages Israel sees in the UfM is the fact that it is currently one of the only forums in which senior Israelis can publicly meet their counterparts from certain neighboring countries.
In addition, Israel will be represented in the permanent secretariat by a Deputy Secretary General once the secretariat is set up in Barcelona.
Some of the most important innovations of the Union for the Mediterranean
include the a rotating co-presidency with one EU president and one president
representing the Mediterranean partners, and a Secretariat based in Barcelona
that is responsible for identifying and promoting projects of regional,
sub-regional and transnational value across different sectors.
The Union for the Mediterranean has also identified six priority projects
which are at the heart of the of Partnership’s efforts, including projects
- the de-pollution of the Mediterranean Sea;
- the establishment of maritime and land highways;
- civil protection initiatives to combat natural and man-made disasters;
- a Mediterranean solar energy plan;
- the inauguration of the Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia;
- and the Mediterranean Business Development Initiative focusing on micro,
small and medium-sized enterprises.