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Europe

EU Plans Smaller Union for the Mediterranean

The European Union has announced its vision for an association of the EU and other states bordering the Mediterranean. But it falls short of what sponsor France originally wanted.

Sarkozy swimming in the Mediterranean

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's grand plans didn't get him very far

The European Commission laid out its views in Strasbourg on Tuesday, May 20.

The project is open to all EU member states as well as countries from North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans and includes the Palestinian authorities.

This is an initiative to reinforce, to reinvigorate our relationship," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said at a press conference. "The more we can develop the region in the South, the less illegal migration there will be…The more prosperity we can give, the less terrorism, the less criminality will be there."

Potential tasks for the new union will be to open new sea traffic routes, clean up Mediterranean waters, improve maritime security and exploit solar power in Northern Africa to help meet Europe's energy needs.

Slight to Sarkozy?

Pirated ship on the Mediterranean

The new Union could help better regulate Mediterranean waters

But the association described by the EU falls short of what France -- and in particular French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- had envisioned.

Sarkozy had hoped for a much more tightly knit alliance restricted to territories with Mediterranean shores. He had touted his vision as a potential avenue for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and had hinted it might be offered to Turkey as an alternative to EU membership.

But those plans were scaled back after objections by powerful EU states not actually bordering the Mediterranean, including Germany.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy was unable to win over the rest of the EU

Turkey also only agreed to participate, if offered assurances that the Union was not being put forward as an alternative to joining the EU -- something the Commission explicitly stated on Tuesday.

"This project is not directed against Turkey," Ferrero-Waldner said.

The EU also scaled back the bureaucracy for the Union and the frequency with which it will meet, making it essentially a new umbrella organization for an already existing Euro-Mediterranean partnership known as the Barcelona Process.

The inaugural summit for the new bloc is scheduled for mid-July in Paris.

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