EU country foreign ministers joined today EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, in a Informal Ministerial meeting with representatives of eight countries of the southern Mediterranean. The meeting was held at the Union for the Mediterranean headquarters in Barcelona, Spain.
The Union for the Mediterranean is a partnership launched by former French President Sarkozy in 2008. Its work has been hindered by diplomatic disputes about the Arab-Israeli conflict, with most Arab countries having relations with Israel blocked over its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, but also by the Cyprus-Turkey and Western Sahara unresolved conflicts. The Union for the Mediterranean and the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) work in parallel to strengthen inter-regional cooperation, with the Union being funded through ENP funding lines.
Despite the relatively low profile of the Union for the Mediterranean so far, Spanish Foreign Minister, Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo, the Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who co-organised the meeting, attracted a high level of participation. Representatives of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Jordan took part in the meeting and declared their support for fighting terrorism and curbing irregular migration, two top priorities of the EU’s collaboration with its neighbours south of the Mediterranean Sea.
The meeting was part of a series of consultations that the EU initiated with ENP countries to review its strategy of collaborations. In fact, the revision of the ENP is one of President Juncker’s main goals for this Commission’s mandate. It is hoped that a new ENP will benefit from a more flexible European approach, will lead to improved political and security cooperation, and will strengthen trade and social development.
The meeting in Barcelona comes a few days after the Spanish authorities arrested 11 suspected terrorists for planning to attack different cities in Spain and just hours after another boat leaving Libya with irregular African migrants sank in the Mediterranean killing over a dozen. Migration and terrorism have thus been the focus of this Informal Ministerial meeting on Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the overall ENP review for a good reason.