Monday, July 14, 2008

Sarkozy: Following in Baker's Footsteps

President Sarkozy unveiled his Union for the Mediterranean on Sunday--and like Secretary of State Baker in Madrid in 1991, Sarkozy got Arabs and Israelis to take part (along with the states of the EU). Syrian president Asad did snub Israeli P.M. Olmert (no handshake, for instance), Libya condemned the process and Morocco's king chose not to attend since the Algerian president was in Paris--but Sarkozy's efforts are quite interesting. Perhaps taking a leaf out of the China-Taiwan process, the focus is less on finding resolution to sticky political issues and instead focusing on whether common environmental and energy projects can inculcate certain habits of cooperation.

Marwan Bishara, Al-Jazeera's senior political analysis, calls the summit a triumph of Mediterranean realism and contrasts the more humble aspirations of the French in light of the "failure" of America to remake the Middle East.

Looking through the various news reports, I was again struck by the lack of real coverage from U.S. outlets. Is it because there is not a "Made in the U.S." sticker? I would assume that the growing "offshore balancer" community should be pleased--this represents burden sharing away from the U.S. toward the Europeans taking a more active lead in dealing with their geographical neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa.

But, just as with the lack of coverage about IBSA, I wonder whether the U.S. is really comfortable with "relinquishing" its roles ...

Well, it was on the front page of the Washington Times ...
Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the State Department yesterday:

QUESTION: What is U.S. reaction on Mediterranean Summit in Paris? (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s an effort that’s being led by the EU and countries around the Mediterranean. We don’t have an observer there. We don’t have a place at the table. But I think generally, it’s an effort that we can, at the least, be supportive of. You know, what the specific outcomes of this grouping will be, you know, we’ll see. But it would appear that they had a good first meeting.
Sarkozy EU presidency is very ambitious: seeking a PCA (Partnership Cooperation Agreement) with Russia while concurrently pacifying the ME and creating a political subject (the Mediterranean Union) to nest Turkey in, in order to block the ever-enlarging tendencies of EU... and its just barely 2 weeks of French presidency. Perhaps in some months we shall see the true colours of these fireworks.

Leonardo B.
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