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HomeInterviewThe researcher Abdennour Benantar: The UPM is on the fritz

The researcher Abdennour Benantar: The UPM is on the fritz

“The Union for the Mediterranean” was the theme of a workshop organized in Tunis by the Center for Mediterranean and international studies with the participation of many researchers and political and economic decision makers of the Mediterranean countries. The reflection focused on the contribution of this structure created one year ago.
Abdennour Benantar, lecturer at the University of Batna and senior research  at CREAD Algiers (Center for Research in Applied Economics) gave a remarkable lecture on the “proliferation of initiatives and the process of dilution of the Mediterranean” . Interview:

Can we say that the Union for the Mediterranean is on the fritz?

 It is on the fritz because when you make an well-thought-out Arab-Israeli casting in Paris and then in Gaza, even before landing at the scene of conflict, you take position and you are not able to stop the war, who’s right and who is wrong? The problem is not there. Stopping a conflict is a fundamental point. If you are unable to do so, then your project does not work.

In light of the analysis and findings , is it possible to assert that the UPM is already being stored in the attic?

The idea is good. But when implemented, it does not hold the road. The expected partnership is floundering and political cooperation whose primary objective is to establish a zone of peace and prosperity is undermined by the Arab-Israeli conflict, as evidenced by the Gaza war that erupted between two members of this Union.

Moreover, it is clear that there are many stumbling blocks. The first of them was dealing already with the composition of the UPM over which France which initiated the project and Germany were at odds. We remember that France was forced to go back to the drawing board

Since the launch of Barcelona process 14 years ago, there is a plethora of initiatives and projects for the Mediterranean. But apparently, things remain unchanged. Is that a fatal flaw?

The devil is in the details. It is true that there is a proliferation of initiatives. We are dealing with what is depicted by French as the dilemma of the valve and the floor cloth. When you have a leaking faucet, the floor cloth is useful but does not repair the valve. This means that the projects drawn up for the Mediterranean are treated as spare parts. And these projects refer to a form of duplication.  Why multiply initiatives that encounter the same difficulties?

The proliferation of partnerships in the Mediterranean represents nothing for the region in terms of security and stability. On the contrary, too many initiatives and institutions take away the prospect of creating a true regional structure. The Mediterranean has no strategic identity. There are security identities in the Mediterranean: the security of the OSCE in the Mediterranean is combined with that of Europe, the Atlantic Alliance … But there is no Mediterranean security; in fact, the talk is about security in the Mediterranean. The sum of these securities is not a comprehensive security for the Mediterranean. It produces security compartments on both sides of the Mediterranean, sometimes even within it.
Furthermore, the multiplication of partnerships parasites and  causes  interferences between regional efforts and has often created duplication. For example, the 5 +5 group wishes to work on interoperability. But NATO also wants to address this problem.

Europe, meanwhile, has duplicated its own efforts. As part of the Barcelona Process, a group of senior officials has been created. But the PSC is also involved in the ESDP. These duplications of regional efforts can add nothing.
Despite declarations, each of those organizations is involved in areas beyond those within its jurisdiction.
Finally, this proliferation of partnerships brings together international players that have no vital interest in the Mediterranean. They take advantage of this proliferation to move the center of gravity of the cooperation in the Mediterranean to the Middle East. The United States for example act that way through the initiative for a Greater Middle East and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

As long as there is something to do, is it recommended to circumvent the problem, that of Arab-Israeli conflict, and consider a union involving , as a first step, the countries of the western Mediterranean?

This is de facto, the 5 +5 dialogue. In doing so, we come back to a more limited framework, that of the western Mediterranean, away from the Middle East imbroglio. And then we try again, the decoupling between the two basins. But the 5 +5 dialogue is under the Tunis Declaration a “regional forum for consultation, cooperation and global thinking.”

Is there competition between the various regional integration projects? 

The Barcelona Process took over the 5 + 5 group, but without tangible results, except at the level of security and illegal immigration. Moreover, the Mediterranean, as a specific area, tends to lose its significance, being integrated into broader perspective, such as the American vision of a “Middle East”, which extends to Pakistan.

And the United States in all this?

The issue of the relations with the United States arises, of course, but not necessarily in terms of strategic domination, which  is always highlighted in  both Europe and the Maghreb. The atlantist dimension is not necessarily inconsistent with the Mediterranean one, and civil societies are not hostile to a rapprochement with the United States, there is even a parallel between the attitudes of North African societies in this regard and that of societies of newly integrated European countries. If nothing is done to change the nature of relations between the two shores of the western Mediterranean, the south could get poorer.

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