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HomeFeatured NewsTunisia : The UfM, between attorneys, rival brothers and «nice guys».

Tunisia : The UfM, between attorneys, rival brothers and «nice guys».

About 800 people, businessmen and officials from all the UMA countries, attended on Thursday, November 27th 2008 the 23rd enterprise days of the IACE. This meeting renewed the Maghreb countries’ economic intelligencia, and debated for one day and a half, the project of the Union for the Mediterranean, in the presence of community officials mainly Jean-Pierre Raffarin who seems to play the role of special delegate from the promoter of the idea of UfM,  Nicolas Sarkozy. Roger Bismuth who presented the first panel on the first day, made a quick summary of all the meeting in two questions. The UfM, a Union around structuring projects or a Union of structures, was the first question. The second one was whether this project is always valid in the current international conjecture.

Raffarin and De Fontaine Vive, the attorneys.

As good attorney of the UfM of the French president, J.P Raffarin opens the dance of the two days by an almost convincing speech, in favour of the UfM and of the «Sarko-energy» behind this idea of the current president of the European Union, about which he will say that «this is the right answer to globalisation» and that it is «at the core of the ambitions» of Sarkozy. He will end by launching an idea, which will be present with variations in all the speeches of many speakers and that De Fontaine Vive, even though he doesn’t willingly mention it does not specifically invoke it in this sentence about the European economic crisis. «We must support the idea that the European boosting plans include a part for the Mediterranean» said J.P Raffarin. The idea will find echo in the person of Philippe de Fontaine Vive, vice-president of the European Investment Bank. This latter, indeed, says that we should «give a Mediterranean dimension to the European boosting plans, without any philosophical approach about the Mediterranean being an opportunity» and confirm that «the Euromed boosting plan will become an obligation next year.
Later, the Tunisian minister of industry Afif Chelbi, will relay him in the defense of the idea saying that «the European boosting plans will benefit from expansion outside Europe, and include the UfM », then he explains that «growth and competitiveness [of Europe which, he says, has growth rates with decimals] are to be sought particularly in the South, which already has significant industrial growth».

The attorneys of the UfM, who came to try and convince a still sceptical public and who said it more than once during the panel discussions mainly the first one. They have even found European support in the person of Andréa Amato, president of the Instituto Europeo per il Mediterraneo who will almost be the «trouble maker», in front of the European attorneys. «We should evaluate the subject of our discussions, not the decisions which outpass the principle declarations », he will say before adding on a musical note proper to Italians [he is one of them] that «we need precise programmes, which make the music of the decisions».

The rival brothers are still «fighting» in silence.

As if there were no journalists from the Maghreb or even from Tunisia, the first panel (and it is not the only one and not to blame the IACE) was animated by the famous  French Olivier Mazerolle (Founder of the BFM TV). This latter could not avoid the upsetting question. He was, indeed, commenting on another reaction raising the interaction between existing structures, to build skilfully the UfM. Hence, resurging the «old demons» who took space, just next to the European one, the Maghreb space, of the UMA specifically. The question of the Occidental Sahara imposes itself, in a discussion between Omar Kabbaj, Advisor to His Majesty the King of Morocco and Sid Ahmed Ghozali, ex-Prime minister in Algeria. And the room was happily applauding in an attempt to stop the exchange that Kabbaj and Ghozali were having with great joy with «dissertations» on the official positions of each of them in the two countries. O. Mazerolle who did suceed to calm the room, will continue and ask Omar Kabbaj whether he believed  the UMA will ever exist. Looking at Ghozali on one side, the Advisor to His Majesty Mohamed 6 declares that «Morocco suggested many times opening the frontiers with Algeria». The discussion will end only when one of the Algerian operators in the assistance takes the floor to add that it is in any ways open actually. The black angel of the Algerian-Moroccan conflict still looming over the UMA will, then, end up by deploying its heavy wings outside the hotel meeting room where the activities of the enterprise days were taking place.

There has been, though in this atmosphere, among all the assistance we must reckon, concrete positions from the panel speakers. We will hear them from the most sceptical of the panel speaker and the disappointed by the Barcelona Process, Andréa Amato who was saying that «there is a lot of confusion about UfM and the meeting in Marseille did not succeed to give any clarifications. Amato declares that he is «for the big projects in the Mediterranean which give to the European Union a true Mediterranean scope, they may lead change and create a development and polycentric growth model».
The Tunisian minister of industry Afif Chelbi will recommend that the Europeans « support the infrastructure modernisation projects, establish a made-in Euromed and open in a significant way access to R&D programmes to the South countries». He will insist on investment, asking the Europeans to invest in the Mediterranean countries. «In front of the crisis, the European industry has to choose between either be marginalised through total and far away delocalisations or share through partial and proximity delocalisations» he says more clearly using the same very word (delocalisation) which still upsets in Europe.
The Tunisian prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, will still be clearer when he raises the projects presented by the European Union to South Mediterranean countries (Sea motorway and solar plan) saying that it is «necessary to identify materialisation tools for these projects and identify the adequate financing means in the long run with reasonable rates, through structuring funds, otherwise this would be another disappointment which will add to the Barcelona disappointment », he says. He even makes an appeal to the European Union to look in the far and see the South Mediterranean area, as a platform which should lead co-development to Africa about which he will say and he will be the only speaker to mention Africa, that it is the continent of the future».

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