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Mediterranean Quarterly 15.1 (2004) 75-92

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Parliaments and Civil Society Cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership

Roderick Pace, Stelios Stavridis, and Dimitris K. Xenakis

Since the mid-1990s, the Mediterranean policy of the European Union has gained a significant degree of multilateralization when compared with previous European approaches to the Mediterranean. The Barcelona Process (or EMP, for Euro-Mediterranean Partnership) launched in November 1995 has become a focal point of both scholarly and policy-oriented attention.1 Arguably, a new phase has emerged in Euro-Mediterranean affairs, consisting of openness, dialogue, and work in common from policy design to implementation. All the same, the Barcelona Process has experienced numerous problems.

The initial optimism about the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) has all but evaporated. The EMP now looks more and more like turning into a post-MEPP process. In addition, Barcelona has not helped resolve other problems in the region: international terrorism, Algeria, the Western Sahara, Cyprus, the region's "boat people," and the proliferation of both conventional [End Page 75] weapons and weapons of mass destruction. All three of its "baskets" (politics and security, economics and finance, and the human dimension) have suffered from these problems. The post-11 September, U.S.-sponsored counterterrorism campaign in the Arab world and the crisis over the war in Iraq have also highlighted the existence of profound divergences, not only within the international community, the transatlantic alliance, and the EU itself, but perhaps more important in this framework, within the EMP partners. Moreover, the inadequacy of the European intervention in the 2002 Middle East crisis seriously affected the status of the Barcelona Process, not only regarding security cooperation but also its multilateral nature. It is no secret that the EU has to make considerable efforts to keep Israel in the process while at the same time continuing cooperation with its Arab partners. Europeans have to contribute to the Middle East peace process in accordance with the reasonable demands of their Arab partners and at the same time deal with Israel's hostile attitude toward their intervention.

Regarding the EMP's commitments to democracy and human rights, it seems that some Mediterranean partners will sooner or later face the reality that the other participants, European or not, might actually insist on the attainment in practice of the agreed-upon principles. Although the existence of political conditionality (also known as democracy clauses) allows the EU to suspend its commitments in cases of regime failure, it also exposes the Mediterranean partners to the goodwill of the Europeans, and thus undermines their demand for equal partnership.2 More importantly, what appears to be the most significant addition that the EMP has made to EU policy toward the Mediterranean, namely its human dimension, has not been, in our view, utilized to its fullest potential. In this essay we discuss practical suggestions for improving the functioning of the third basket. More analytically, we propose a more consistent and comprehensive use of the parliamentary dimension of the process in order to facilitate the emergence and consolidation of civil societies in the southern Mediterranean. Such a condition represents a necessary prerequisite for real democratization and human rights. [End Page 76]

The EU has traditionally preferred to try and act, at best, as a civilian power in the region.3 The underlying philosophical belief of this policy stance is that economic development in the southern Mediterranean countries attacks the root cause of their socioeconomic problems and strengthens their social and political stability. Influenced by the liberal belief that democracies are less likely than other societies to go to war, and, in the 1900s, by a tinge of misplaced Fukujaman optimism about the final triumph of liberalism, the EU vigorously pursued the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area aiming to enmesh the countries of the region in a cobweb of economic interdependencies.

The Barcelona Declaration underlines a strong commitment to upholding human rights and democratic principles, and the bilateral free-trade agreements concluded thus far also include human rights clauses. However, there appears to...


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