Politik und Gesellschaft Online
International Politics and Society 2/1999


Volker Perthes:

The Mediterranean region, the Middle East peace process and the European Union

Vorläufige Fassung / Preliminary version

In seeking a political role in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, the European Union's (EU) prime concern relates to questions of common security as well as regional peace and political cooperation between Arabs and Israelis. At the same time the Middle East peace process has become a central issue of the European-Mediterranean partnership, the so-called Barcelona process. "Barcelona" would not have been possible without "Madrid", without the period of Arab-Israeli peace negotiations introduced by the 1991 Madrid conference; but the Barcelona process is also a specifically European contribution which can be used by the EU to influence the conflict structures and the peace process in the Middle East. This takes place both on a multilateral and a bilateral level. The European willingness to be engaged in the Middle East peace process not only financially but also politically has increased under the impression that a blockage of the process would also have negative consequences on its own endeavours at creating European-Mediterranean structures. Thus the Arab states have made clear that they will not agree to the European concept of stability for as long as the territorial conflicts in the Middle East remain unresolved. It is, however, insufficient simply to demand a political role in the Middle East. A European political commitment in the region will make great demands of EU structures and capacities. Europe will have to put forward a unified view in questions regarding the conflict and will have to provide unified answers in questions regarding the background of its policies in the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. A political role of the EU will, in addition, demand of the European actors that they deal more clearly than hitherto with some southern and eastern Mediterranean partner countries, thus risking political conflicts which could affect short-term economic interests. Finally, Europe will not be able to avoid certain wishes from the southern and eastern Mediterranean area: that affects purely economic questions as well as the readiness to liberalise the movement of persons.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition juliag | April 1999