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French fanfare over Mediterranean Union no antidote to doubts

brussels bureau

French fanfare over Mediterranean Union no antidote to doubts


Middle Eastern leaders by the dozen will beat a path to Paris this Sunday for President Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union launch. Invitations went out to all the countries around the Med and the European Union states.

Downplaying the diluted form his pet project has taken, Nicolas Sarkozy is portraying it as a coup for peace, since Arab leaders such as the president of Syria have agreed to sit in the same room as Israel’s prime minister.

In Strasbourg on Thursday, Sarkozy told MEPs: “The presence of all these European and Mediterranean heads in Paris, in the name of Europe and the Mediterranean is something moving… It’s the best news for peace in the Middle East.”

Sarkozy’s original plan for a club that left out EU states not on the Med made Germany particularly angry. The number was adjusted up and the plan was scaled down. Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “We name this child ‘the Union for the Mediterranean,’ a project of the European Union’s 27 members.”

But the participants remain wary of each other. Experts describe the policy initiative as vague and weak.

Analyst Daniel Gros was sceptical: “This is something that cannot be resolved in six months. It will take years to develop, especially to see how the European Union can actually implement a policy that will influence developments in the Arabic states.”

Insiders are not expecting many significant decisions on Sunday. One French official said there would not even be a group photo.

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