The countries of the Mediterranean are of considerable economic significance for the European Union, constituting as a group one of its largest trading partners and having close historic and cultural ties with some of its Member States. A prosperous, democratic, stable and secure Mediterranean region, having close economic and political relations with Europe, is in the best interests of the EU. Relations between the Community/Union and the Mediterranean countries have become ever closer since the 1960s, with a new phase of close cooperation beginning in November 1995 in Barcelona with the Euro-Mediterranean partnership process.
The so-called ''Barcelona Process'', was re-launched in July 2008 as the Union for the Mediterranean at the Paris Summit for the Mediterranean, with the new network of relations endorsed at the Marseille Meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Ministers of Foreign Affairs in November 2008. The Partnership now includes all 28 Member States of the European Union, along with 15 partners across the Southern Mediterranean and the Middle East: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.
Some of the most important innovations of the Union for the Mediterranean include 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: 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.
The Euro-Mediterranean partners participate in the European Neighbourhood policy and benefit from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which replaced, since 1 January 2007, the pre-existing financial instrument MEDA [see section 25.4]. A key objective over the next few years will be deeper integration between the partners through liberalisation of trade and services, increased investment and regulatory convergence [COM/2005/139].
The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership comprises a complementary bilateral dimension. Indeed, the European Union has bilateral agreements with each country. The most important are the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements that the Union negotiates and concludes with Mediterranean countries individually. They reflect the general principles governing the new Euro-Mediterranean relationship, although they each contain characteristics specific to the relations between the EU and each Mediterranean country.
Under the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, Association Agreements have been concluded with three Maghreb countries, Tunisia [Agreement, last amended by Decision 2006/612], Morocco [Agreement and Decision 2000/204, last amended by Agreement and Decision 2012/497] and Algeria [Agreement, last amended by Protocol 6] as well as with three Mashreq countries, Egypt [Agreement, last amended by Protocol], Jordan [Agreement, last amended by Decision 2006/508] and Lebanon [Agreement and Decision 2006/356]. As indicated above, these Euro-Mediterranean Agreements provide for a regular political dialogue, the step-by-step establishment of a free trade area, provisions on the right of establishment, services, competition rules and free movement of capital, strengthening of economic cooperation on the broadest possible front complemented by social, cultural and financial cooperation.
A partnership agreement was established between the Union and its Member States of the one part, and Iraq, of the other part, based on the respect for democratic principles and human rights, as well as for the principle of the rule of law (Agreement and Decision 2012/418). The objectives of this Partnership are: (a) to provide an appropriate framework for the political dialogue between the Parties allowing the development of political relations; (b) to promote trade and investment and harmonious economic relations between the Parties; and (c) to provide a basis for legislative, economic, social, financial and cultural cooperation.
The European Community/Union has also concluded agreements for the creation of a customs union between it and the principality of Andorra [Agreement last amended by Decision 1/99] and the republic of San Marino [Agreement, last amended by Protocol] respectively.
The preferential arrangements for Israel, introduced by the 1975 agreement, are operating reasonably well and have resulted in steady growth in trade between the EC/EU and this country. In the framework of the common foreign policy, the EU brought its support to the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Territories [Decision 94/276/CFSP and Decision 95/205]. The new Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishes an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the State of Israel, of the other part [Agreement and Protocol and Decision 2008/372]. The aims of the Agreement are: to provide an appropriate framework for political dialogue; to promote the harmonious development of economic relations between the EU and Israel; and to encourage regional cooperation with a view to the consolidation of peaceful coexistence and economic and political stability.
The EU offers the Palestinian public administration financial and technical assistance contributing to setting up and improving basic institutions for the development process in the Occupied Territories (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and for the implementation of the "roadmap" for peace in the Middle East [Regulation 1638/2006]. A Euro-Mediterranean interim Association Agreement on trade and cooperation has also been concluded between the European Community and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) for the benefit of the Palestinian Authority [Agreement, last amended by Exchange of Letters, 2005]. It covers the whole range of economic and commercial relations and sets out the stages leading to full liberalisation of trade between the two sides. A joint action of the Council established a European Union assistance programme to support the Palestinian Authority in its efforts to counter terrorist activities emanating from the territories under its control [Joint Action 2000/298/CSFP]. An EU police mission for the Palestinian Territories is intended to help establish sustainable and effective policing arrangements managed by the Palestinians [Joint Action 2005/797].
The Laeken European Council (14-15 December 2001) stated that the position of the EU on the Middle East conflict was that: the only basis for peace is UN Resolutions 242 and 338; full recognition of Israel's inalienable right to live in peace and security within internationally recognised borders; and the establishment of a viable, independent and democratic Palestinian State and an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories. The Copenhagen European Council (12-13 December 2002) urged the adoption by the Middle East Quartet (USA, EU, UN and Russia) of a joint road map leading to two States, Israel and an independent, viable, sovereign, and democratic Palestine, living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders. While having repeatedly condemned terrorist atrocities against Israelis and recognised Israel's right to protect its citizens against terrorist attacks, the European Union has consistently called on the Israeli government to take action to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians by lifting prohibitions on movement, reversing its settlement policy and reversing the construction of the so-called security fence on Palestinian land. The EU supports a process leading to the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East [Decision 2012/422].
In the Middle East, progress and dialogue are inexorably slow, despite the major efforts of the European Community to conduct and expand dialogue with the Arab countries. In September 1981, the Community's Foreign Affairs Ministers expressed their wish to establish relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), then a new body set up by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait. After exploratory high-level talks lasting several years, a cooperation agreement was finally signed on June 15, 1988 in Luxembourg [Agreement and Decision 89/147]. This agreement formalises economic and political relations between the two parties and provides for the implementation of all-round cooperation in the sectors traditionally covered by this type of agreement, namely industry, trade promotion, agriculture, science and technology and energy. At the fifteenth Joint Cooperation Council meeting between the European Union and the GCC, on 5 April 2005, the parties said they were committed to concluding negotiations on a free-trade agreement without delay and stressed the need for continued progress, particularly with regard to services, customs duties on industrial products and public procurement.
In response to the 2011 events in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (Arab Spring), the EU agreed amendments to the Agreement Establishing the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) extending the geographic scope of its operations to the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean [Decision 602/2012]. Since its establishment in 1991, the EBRD has assisted the Central and Eastern European countries in their transition towards open market economies and the promotion of private and entrepreneurial initiative. The extension of the geographic scope of EBRD to the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean is expected to promote similar objectives.