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Abdallah Saaf: The Euro Mediterranean partnership impaired by an obvious instability

What future for the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, while the spirit of Barcelona tends to give way to a growing disillusionment among southern Mediterranean countries?
This issue was on the agenda of a seminar organized by the Association of International Studies in collaboration with the Delegation of the  European Commission in Tunisia and Libya.
Among the guests at this meeting, Professor Abdallah Saaf, Director of the Center for Studies and Research in Social Sciences of Morocco, Professor of Political Science at the University of Rabat, former Minister of Education under of changeover government . Interview:

– Some skepticism is undermining the process of Euro-Mediterranean partnership, which faces a succession of obstacles since its launch in Barcelona 13 years ago. Do you think that is the case?

I obviously think that we must keep hope. We must be optimistic, but this does rule out realism, ie taking into account the failures, obstacles, especially the structural problems in connection with this project for the Union of the Mediterranean. We must not conceal the difficulties, and we must address them.

These difficulties are quite serious, they are political, of course, due to the Palestinian problem that involves a lot of failures in the relations between the North and the South of the Mediterranean. We can not obscure the Eurocentric tendencies of the atmosphere that has developed in Europe. There is even a step backwards compared to what was known in Europe. That also must include the constantly changing international situation. It was believed that tensions were over . One wonders what Georgia is going to add to NATO. These things remind us that everything is reversible.

Do not you think that there are faults on both sides?

No. In the South, and there are several “South”, each has its own way, its own name, its own record, its own making-up. That of Tunisia, is not similar to that of other countries. But it is true that there is this coresponsibility that we fulfil.

There are social policies that would be more ambitious. I am not defending the policies in place. There are social policies that need to be more offensive in some respects.

What do you think of the proposal calling for the setting up of a structure involving the countries of the western Mediterranean?

It already exists. There is the 5 + 5, which is managed in an almost routine way. But we must not underestimate the meetings, to which it gives rise that promote socialization constantly needed by the region.. In my opinion, the Maghreb countries have never agreed to be diluted in a wider Mediterranean, whereas before, relations were more individualized.

The process of the Mediterranean partnership is discontinuous like a dotted line and experiencing frequent slumps that don’t help the project keeping on track.

There is an obvious instability. There were initially  Barcelona 1, Barcelona 2 revisited, the Strengthened  Partnership, the Neighbourhood Policy. These policies are not always consistent, and I have no difficulty demonstrating that they are sometimes contradictory.

As disagreements between Eastern Europe and the western part of the continent are settled ,  new realities emerge that recall some episodes of the Cold War, and that has an impact  on the Mediterranean.

On the other hand, Barcelona was representing in 1995,  a step generating great enthusiasm. Now we’re a thousand miles away. The situation is completely different.

Mainly, there are many items that you can not hide when you think about the Euro Mediterranean Partnership. There is a lengthy process that must engage. Does this meet the needs of the region. Are there a lot of unfavourable factors?
These are the questions that are being raised in a context where Europe is deeply involved in dealing with eastern wig, apparently at the expense of its southern neighbours


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