Two and a Half Cheers for the Mediterranean Union

Maybe it is time to be a bit more generous to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and look at the outcome of what he does rather than the way that he does it.

The original launch of the Mediterranean Union almost sank the whole enterprise. Appearing to speak without giving the issue much thought, Sarkozy initially proposed a club of European and mostly Arab states along the Mediterranean’s shore. It would have been in essence a French-run enterprise that the rest of Europe would have paid for. This did not go down well, particularly with the Germans.

There was also a strong suspicion that the French were trying to find a way to buy off Turkey with a relationship falling well short of European Union membership.

So the auguries for an attempt to revitalize Europe’s relationship with its Mediterranean partners were not good. But by the time of the grand Paris Summit in July to send the new club on its way, the initial suspicions had largely been overcome. Sarkozy bowed to his European critics and enjoyed a diplomatic triumph. We shall soon see whether there is substance to the initiative, or whether it is just a coat of fresh paint on an old and tired idea.