Croatia’s membership promoted

Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies (MEDAC), University of Malta

Stephen Calleya
 
The government of Malta has been a consistent proponent of Croatia’s membership application. The foreign ministries of both Croatia and Malta have interacted regularly in an effort to promote Croatia’s membership bid. Thus, Malta believes Croatia will become a member of the EU in the next round of enlargement. Such a development will have a positive impact on strengthening stability across the Balkans and further enhance the Mediterranean dimension of the European Union.
 
Malta is also supportive of the EU applications of Montenegro and Iceland.[1] Malta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also been in close contact with both countries and offered support to further their EU accession negotiations.
 
Discussion regarding EU membership applications is primarily carried out at a governmental level with the Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly commenting on this issue. There is a consensus across the political spectrum in Malta that only those states that fully meet the Copenhagen Criteria should be allowed to join the European Union. No consideration should be given entertaining transitional phases of enlargement when it comes to countries that have yet to carry out the necessary political and economic reforms.
 
At a civil society level, the membership of Turkey is also often discussed. A significant proportion of people are uncertain about the eligibility of Turkey to conduct further EU accession negotiations due to geographic and political issues. Issues of concern include Turkey’s Middle East geographic dimension, Turkey’s human rights’ track record and Turkey’s stance towards the Cypriot issue.
 
Located in the centre of the Mediterranean, Malta’s main foreign policy focus has been on supporting the evolution of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) as a complementary mechanism to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) that was launched in November 1995.
 
It is fundamentally clear that the Euro-Med Partnership coupled with the Union for the Mediterranean offer a unique opportunity to strengthen political, economic and cultural ties across the Euro-Mediterranean area. But such progress will only be registered if all the Euro-Med countries direct their actions at the causes rather than the symptoms of contemporary disparities and security risks. This is not to say that humanitarian and development assistance is not essential, but this should not become a substitute for efforts that are geared towards increasing higher levels of cooperation between the countries of the Mediterranean.
 
The Union for the Mediterranean offers the blueprint to address the physical architectural deficit that has prevented the Mediterranean area from becoming a coherent functional economic regional space. The specific project areas that have been highlighted, including those concerning renewable energy, de-pollution of the sea, better transport connections and a civil protection network, focus on improving the physical dimension of the regional framework that to date has been lacking.
 
The launching of an enhanced political dialogue through the Union for the Mediterranean provides the EU with an excellent opportunity to introduce two basic features that have been absent from the EMP: responsibility and accountability. Both will upgrade the Mediterranean states participation in the UfM. Responsibility and accountability will provide the Mediterranean with a sense of ownership of a process that has to date been largely EU driven. It will also assist in eliminating the “us and them” perception that the Mediterranean countries have had of the EMP.
 
The Union for the Mediterranean must thus be seen as a litmus test of the European Union’s objective of assisting the improvement of livelihoods in states that border its own member states. Moreover, the UfM track record will also have a major bearing on the extent to which the European Union is able to positively influence development in Africa and the Middle East.
 
Parallel to the UfM economic targets, it is essential to re-visit the headline goal of the Barcelona Process to establish a common security agenda and mechanism for the Mediterranean. More than a decade has passed since the Guidelines for a Security Charter were published at the Euro-Med foreign ministerial meeting in Stuttgart in April 1999.
 
Economic development as envisaged by the Union for the Mediterranean will only take place if investors believe they are committing themselves to a strategic environment where the rule of law and security are guaranteed. The re-launching of a political dialogue that seeks to build a common security platform to address the long list of security risks and threats, including terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking, organised crime, and environmental degradation, will create a more conducive strategic context within which UfM goals can be pursued and achieved.
 
If the EU wants to increase security in the Mediterranean at a human level, it needs to decide whether it is going to export more jobs to its southern neighbours or whether it is prepared to absorb some of the excess employment capacity that is due to grow further in the next decade. Current projections estimate that the population of North Africa and the Middle East is due to grow from 200 million to 300 million by 2020.
 
Unless the countries along the southern shores of the Mediterranean are able to significantly increase their economic growth to above six percent per annum, unemployment figures in this part of the world are scheduled to increase rapidly in the next ten years. This demographic time bomb is, therefore, certain to be a source of instability in the Euro-Mediterranean area if not tackled in a concerted manner in the near future.
 
The Union for the Mediterranean therefore provides a very important strategic re-assessment of the EU’s policy towards its southern neighbourhood. When all the hoopla surrounding the multilateral initiative launched by France is done away with, the UfM boils down to being a vehicle that seeks to correct the numerous deficits that the Euro-Med Partnership has suffered since its inception. These include addressing the issue of co-ownership, enhancing visibility of the process and focusing on delivering more tangible results in the form of numerous regional projects that are crucial to connecting the Mediterranean to the larger international system.
 
The Union for the Mediterranean introduces a very important perspective that to date has been absent when it comes to promoting regional integration in the Mediterranean. The UfM project will enhance Euro-Mediterranean interdependence, a prerequisite to being able to encourage confidence and eventual trust between states in the area. The rising political and economic interests and stakes will serve as an insurance policy against self-centred and myopic policy-making that for too long has hindered trans-Mediterranean integration.
 
The Eastern Partnership is also regarded positively as a vehicle that can enhance stability along Europe’s eastern borders. This dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy is, however, much less discussed when compared to its southern dimension, given the dominance of Mediterranean security issues on the agenda in Malta.


[1] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 7 April 2010, available at: http://www.foreign.gov.mt/default.aspx?MDIS=21&NWID=974 (last access: 12 July 2010).

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