The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2002 and the Relaunching of the Barcelona Process

The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2002 and the Relaunching of the Barcelona Process
Working Paper

Has the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union during the first half of 2002 achieved its goal of relaunching the Barcelona Process and generating the political impetus to make its plans a reality? Is the Valencia Action Plan the road map for this journey? What has this really meant in terms of the development of the Process and the configuration of the international system in the Mediterranean?

To answer these questions it is first necessary to consider the implications and opportunities of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU in terms of the development of the Barcelona Process. This can be considered a three-hold issue, involving the development of the Process as an element that gives structure to the Mediterranean international order, the relationships between the EU and its southern Mediterranean associates, and the development of Spain’s position and relative weight among these.

Dealing with the multiple dimensions of these questions takes us to an intellectual journey with the following stages:

As a multi-faceted starting point, we must consider:

  • the Mediterranean in terms of its problems, the corresponding agenda for dealing with them, and their international context.
  • the Barcelona Process as a structural framework for the international system in the Mediterranean and for the EU with its southern members.
  • the Mediterranean as a challenge and a strategic priority of Spanish foreign policy.
  • the Mediterranean as a target setting for the construction of the European perimeter and for the external projection of the EU.
  • the Barcelona Process and external relations, and the international integration of southern Mediterranean countries.
  • Spain’s considerations and goals for the European presidency in terms of the Barcelona Process: Spain’s concept of what Mediterranean and why the Mediterranean.
  • The strategy and tactics designed and developed by Spain to reach its desired goal: the how, the road to follow and the action taken on the way to Valencia.
  • The analysis and evaluation of the Action Plan approved by the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference in Valencia as the goal and main fruit of the work done during the Spanish presidency.
  • The future and the challenges presented by and at Valencia.

Let us raise anchors, hoist sails and begin the journey. 

The Starting Point
The Mediterranean: Factors to be Considered
Why does the Mediterranean matter to us and what for? The answer to this question of course depends on who answers it and from what perspective. There are many important reasons why the Mediterranean matters –and particularly to us. The following is not an exhaustive list -and the reader may want to add some to it- however, it should serve us in our consideration of these reasons.
First of all, the Mediterranean acts as the strategic border of the European Union, in three senses:

  • With the expansion toward the east, the Mediterranean has become the great strategic border of the Union, vital to its interests and a test of its ability to construct positive international surroundings.
  • In the aftermath of September 11, the Mediterranean has become a privileged and decisive setting for dialogue and cooperation between civilizations at the global level and particularly for the European Union, as it is the only setting in which European civilization is in dialogue or confrontation.
  • The Mediterranean is a key setting for European construction, which is both an inward and outward process. Europe can hardly build outward if it is not capable of building itself in the Mediterranean.

Secondly, the unstable balance and uncertain viability that defines the Mediterranean as a whole is of great concern. This is characterized on its southern shores by the problems and challenges to its development, progress, demographic growth, the rigidity and stagnation of its elites and models, and the need for political change. Furthermore, in general, the enormous imbalances between North and South continue to worsen, judging by the observed changes in the main variables that define them, increasing the potential problems they represent. This trend is reflected, among other things, in increasing differences in income, which are already the greatest (15 to 1) that exist between bordering regions or blocks; in the demographic gap which, nonetheless, is growing in complementary directions (surplus capacity in the South to mitigate the deficit in the North), suggesting the need to consider migratory phenomena as a shared demographic problem; in the growing differences between cultures and civilizations as a structural factor in international relations, with the Mediterranean playing a key role in channeling dialogue and cooperation; and in the decreasing per capita aid provided by the European Union, both in absolute and in relative terms, especially compared to Eastern Europe.
Finally, while the Mediterranean is a meeting place, it is also a sea of confrontation – the scene of conflicts that cannot be ignored when establishing a global framework for the region’s international order and for Euro-Mediterranean relations. I refer, first of all, to the situation in the Middle East and the process there as a priority and determining factor on the global international agenda, for stability in the region, and for the Barcelona Process (the only international forum shared by Arabs and Israelis, conceived during a time of optimism regarding the Middle East peace process), which cannot and must not avoid considerations and actions involving its relationship and interaction with the Middle East process. Neither must we overlook the tense relations between Algeria and Morocco, which share one of the few closed borders in this globalized world, or the tensions between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus, which is soon to join the EU.

The Barcelona Process, Structural Framework for the International System in the Mediterranean and for Euro-Mediterranean Relations.
The Barcelona Process (1995) began and developed on the basis of the EU’s pre-existing privileged relationship with southern Mediterranean countries, as expressed in the Treaty of Rome and focused and developed generally in the Mediterranean Global Policy launched in 1972, which was replaced in 1990 by the Renewed Mediterranean Policy. However, the Barcelona Declaration, and the Process it initiated, represented a qualitative leap, a change in concepts and paradigms in terms of the structure of previous relationships, both in form and content: because they were signed jointly by the 27 members of the Process, thus replacing a North-to-South policy with a partnership, a common project, a Euro-Mediterranean “social contract”; because of their very nature and conception as a Process; because of their globality, both geographic  (opting for a global framework of EU – Mediterranean relations, rather than possible alternative sub-regional frameworks) and thematic (by including in its three chapters –politics and security, economy, trade finance, and culture, society and human affairs– all possible aspects of relations, with the triple objective of making the Mediterranean a region of peace and stability, development and shared prosperity, and dialogue and cooperation among cultures and civilizations; because of the teleological nature of this triple objective; and because of their potential for promoting the construction of a Euro-Mediterranean space in a generally positive context.
Therefore, the very existence, considerations and concepts of the Barcelona Process make it a great asset in itself, marking an historic change in the development of the international system in the Mediterranean: if it did not exist, it would have to be invented.However, it is a necessary condition, but not a sufficient one: looking back, it cannot be denied that the Process has borne important fruits, such as the conclusion of practically all the agreements of association with third countries in the Mediterranean, the creation of different programs and a significant allocation of MEDA concessional funds and EIB loans for development in the region; still, the general problems facing the region have not improved substantially since then. Progress, in general, has been excessively conditioned by the degree of priority given to Mediterranean affairs by each European presidency. In addition to tangible projects and initiatives, allowing progress to be made toward its goals, the Process must work harder to develop intangible factors that can help develop its full potential, as well as its independent functioning and structuring, its visibility, its capillarity, its institutionalization, its specificity and its efficiency. The construction of a Euro-Mediterranean space which guarantees the viability of its southern members economically, politically and socially, and the development of a Euro-Mediterranean region enjoying peace, stability, prosperity and shared interests through a process of positive feedback clearly requires new political dynamism at a key moment in global and Euro-Mediterranean relations, translating into a set of initiatives and powerful ideas capable of transforming theoretical considerations into reality and avoiding the great potential conflict represented by the problems that have been identified.

The Mediterranean in the Construction of the Foreign Policy of a Democratic Spain
“But what increases Spain’s weight and gives it greater scope for action is its geographical location, which makes it an essential element in the balance of regional power, with clear and immediate repercussions in the global balance: the Mediterranean. Its key location on the Mediterranean gives it weight in the general scheme of things. This is the reason why some of its dilemmas when formulating and implementing foreign policy and, on the other hand, for its importance and potential” (Morán, 1980:20) (1).

Historically, geopolitically and structurally, the Mediterranean has been, and continues to be, one of the great priorities and areas of influence of Spanish foreign policy -as Fernando Morán explained in what has become a reference work on Spanish foreign policy after the democratic transition– while also being an international asset that determines the country’s global position. Without the Mediterranean, Spain would hardly be all that it is, and could be, internationally. It is a unique setting for securing the country’s national interests, being the main source of its security problems, in the broadest sense. From this strategic perspective of security and international stability, Spain’s national interest is at stake in the Mediterranean in a qualitatively different way than in any other geographical area.The Mediterranean was a structural priority of Spanish foreign policy and the setting for its construction in a specific historical context: that of an external transition that made possible and brought about an internal transition. The democratic transition in Spain after the death of General Franco brought with it the opportunity and possibility of shifting from a mortgaged foreign policy focused on the vital goal of guaranteeing the survival of the regime internationally (though it was a foreign policy that left behind an important inheritance, such as the development of privileged relations with the Arab world), to a policy representing an exemplary process of democratic transition – in itself an international asset – focusing, after an initial period of international homologation and access to international forums, on the construction of Spain as a medium power – a power with a set of privileged relations and special influence in Europe, the Mediterranean and Latin America.

This triple ambition in fact materialized in two stages: first, European integration; then later, from within the European Union, Spain’s privileged relations with Latin America and the Mediterranean were addressed. For the generation and the political class that undertook the democratic transition, democracy in Spain meant Spain in Europe: the meaning of European integration went far beyond foreign policy, homologation and even a guarantee that the democratic process would not be reversed. This is the reason for membership negotiations focused in essentially political terms which, beyond a political declaration annexed to the membership treaties of Spain and Portugal affirming that with their membership the EC acquired a special historical relationship with Latin America, did not restructure the Union’s foreign affairs – in contrast to the change in relations between the EC and the British Commonwealth brought about when the United Kingdom joined.

In these foreign affairs, although the southern shores of the Mediterranean were given priority in terms of effort and instruments, Latin America was included among unassociated countries – a far cry from devoting the means, resources and attention required for the privileged relation with the region that Spain desired. With European integration, Spain, like every other member state, had both bilateral and European channels open to it for focusing and implementing its foreign policy objectives. The challenge it faced was to develop synergies and dynamics with positive feedback between both channels.

As it faced the challenge of building a special relationship with Latin America, Spain in 1992 also faced the highly symbolic celebration of the fifth centennial of the discovery of America. This was accompanied by the question as to whether membership in a European Union whose foreign relations relegated Latin America to a less than privileged position and which was also soon to face the challenge of expansion to the east after the fall of the Berlin Wall, had meant postponing or renouncing Spain’s Latin American ambitions. For this reason, while bilaterally strengthening relations with southern Mediterranean countries, the grand objective of Spanish foreign policy after joining the EC was to build a framework for a privileged relationship with Latin America, both by intensely developing new bases for bilateral relations – essentially in terms of diplomacy, economy and foreign aid – and by projecting its own vision of relations between the EU and Latin America and how to implement this. The first Spanish presidency of Council of the Union, in the first half of 1989, was the decisive occasion and instrument for this. Thus, when the Latin-American Summits process began in 1991, it was the highest expression of the Latin-American Community of Nations that Spain considered the global framework for its relations with the region. It could be said that Spain had the inevitable mission of focusing and channeling the development of a privileged relationship with Latin America, and stimulating a qualitative leap in relations between the EU and the region (2).

In this context, the Spanish presidency of 1989 is worthy of special mention not only for its decisive role in shaping a Spanish vision of EU-Latin American relations and for laying down their foundations, but also for the role of the presidency in the construction and development of Spanish foreign policy itself. For a country like Spain -which not only had to try to further the construction of foreign policy for a Community to which it was a latecomer, while reconciling this with its own foreign interests, but at the same time had to learn, acquire experience and credibility, develop its vision and forms of action in relation to the process of European construction and foreign policy – taking on the presidency of the Council of the Union was a unique opportunity to gain that credibility, to acquire that experience and to work to bring the Union’s foreign policy in line with its own foreign policy interests. To do this, a great deal of reflection and preparation was done beforehand. Apart from defining specific goals, Spain actively focused on debating the initiatives, concerns and actions it promoted, beyond the scope of the presidency itself. The presidency was seen as a window of opportunity for acquiring credibility with the other members and relevant players and for accumulating political capital in this area of special foreign policy interest, giving the country greater relative weight and greater ability to act after its presidency.

Many aspects of Spain’s vision, actions, considerations and goals during the presidency of 1989, in terms of EU-Latin American relations, would come to fruition some years later. The following presidency, in the second half of 1995, followed a similar pattern in terms of EU relations with the Mediterranean. Along with the gestation of the trans-Atlantic agenda, this was Spain’s great founding legacy in terms of projecting European construction abroad.

Indeed, having successfully met the challenges of 1992 and set in motion the construction of a framework for a special relationship with Latin America, the great pending challenge in Spain’s external transition was to establish a global framework for Mediterranean relations. Getting this underway was made all the more urgent by the fall of the Berlin Wall, which necessarily shifted the Union’s sphere of influence to the east, resulting in a need for rebalance with the south.

It is true that the Mediterranean has been a structural priority of special interest in Spain’s foreign policy in recent years. Bilaterally, through the European Union, and through other channels Spain has taken important initiatives in the region. Outstanding among these are the strengthening of relations with the Maghreb (especially with Morocco), the 1991 conference in Madrid that initiated the Middle East Peace Process, the establishment of forums on Euro-Mediterranean relations such as the Mediterranean Forum and the Western Mediterranean Forum (5+5) and the rebalancing of the EU’s financial projections for region for 1991-1995. However, it is also true that after the failed joint initiative with Italy in 1989 to hold a conference on security and cooperation in the Mediterranean, inspired by the CESCE model, Spain and the EU lacked a forum or global framework for relations with southern Mediterranean countries and indeed with all the countries on Mediterranean shores. The strategy and actions of the Spanish presidency, which in 1995 gave rise to the Barcelona Declaration and the Process that develops it, responded to the vision and ambition of geographic and thematic double globality.

Having accomplished this, it could be said that Spain also fulfilled its ambition to build a framework for a privileged relationship with the Mediterranean region, culminating in some sense its own construction as a medium power and its exterior transition. This vision, focus and framework were articulated through the EU and politically and conceptually it could not be otherwise. However, this differs from its scheme of relations with Latin America: with the latter Spain has a forum for global relations and a collective entity not shared with the rest of the EU (the Ibero-American summits and the Ibero-American Community of Nations) in addition to the EU-Latin America and Caribbean summits and the agreements and mechanisms on which relations between them are based, providing the opportunity for positive feedback between the two of them and the strengthening of Spain’s relative position in both as a result of this simultaneous participation. At the same time, this serves as an alternative bilateral asset to complement the global framework of the EU. In the Mediterranean, by contrast, Spain, like Hernán Cortés, “has burnt its ships”: the only possible or desirable framework is through the EU, meaning that failure or lack of progress on the part of the EU also signifies the failure of Spain’s own strategic priorities for global Mediterranean relations on the path to peace and security, development and shared prosperity, and cooperation and dialogue between cultures and civilizations. This is why so many of Spain’s national interests are at stake in the progress and development of the Barcelona Process.

This is also the reason for Spain’s special position as part of the Barcelona Process, which combines its moral authority as a founder of the Process, its privileged bilateral relations with other southern members, and special credibility in the EU and in the South in terms of Euro-Mediterranean relations, with special responsibility for development and progress in these relations, and a position within the Process that is by definition militant and “extreme” – a position in favor of making headway, while conscious that the necessary balance of forces will result by definition in a necessarily lesser middle ground. As a result, given the impasse in the Process and the international and Mediterranean situation described above, Spain inevitably considered a political boost to this issue to be one of the strategic foreign policy objectives of its presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2002.

The Mediterranean in the Exterior Construction of Europe
Unidentified Political Object, political subject and collective project in progress the European Union is fruit and object of an inward and outward process of European construction, for Europeans themselves and for the world. Outward, because it would be of little service to Europeans and the goals and political values that power the process if Europe existed only for them and not for the world: to build Europe may be to build a UPO, but it in any case it means building an international player. Outward, especially toward the Mediterranean, because Europe could hardly exist without the Mediterranean, which, as we have indicated, is the exterior border of Europe and the decisive and unique setting for exterior construction given three current conditions: the EU’s expansion, its constituent process and the new international parameters after 11-S.

Europe projects itself outward through several policies and instruments with different decision-making processes and degrees of harmonization with the national policies of members states, such as the Common Trade Policy, the Community Policy on Development Aid, Foreign and Common Security Policy, the European Security and Defense Policy, and the so-called third column (Justice and Interior); the structure of which is the result of the strategies and interactions of its member states. This brings us to the issue of the Mediterranean as an object of national interests and foreign policies. As Esther Barbé and Elisabeth Johansson (2001) (3) show in a recent study on the CFSP in the Mediterranean, the Fifteen agree on the following horizontal issues they consider to be of national interest: security, stability and peace in Europe and in the world; stability in the Mediterranean region (including the Middle East Peace Process); strengthening democratic values, the rule of law and human rights; multilateral frameworks for crisis management and security. The majority also consider the EU to be the ideal and principal framework for satisfying national interests.

As we have already stated, the Mediterranean is clearly the external perimeter of the EU, especially in terms of its expansion. It is its backyard – the decisive and unique setting where answers must be sought to the questions of its global horizontal objectives and its very stability and security, as well as to the challenges of dialogue and cooperation among cultures and civilizations. These are the three grand ideas powering –and being powered by– the Barcelona Process, which has become, in terms both of what and how, the decisive framework for Europe’s external construction, for satisfying the national interests of the Union and its members states and for consolidating it as a first-rate power in a changing international system. The Mediterranean is, and will continue to be, the decisive strategic setting for Europe’s development.

The Barcelona Process in External Relations and the International Integration of the Southern Mediterranean Countries
Given the aforementioned problems and challenges of political change and socio-economic transformation, the conflicts and tensions that characterize some bilateral relations and geographic situations, the conflict of civilizations underlying the Middle East conflict and others, and a relationship with the EU that is a determining and irreplaceable factor in the foreign relations of southern Mediterranean countries… for these countries, the Barcelona Process is not only the framework for channeling a strategic, decisive and irreplaceable relationship with the EU, but is in fact the forum or framework for their global international integration and for their relations with other southern members. At the same time, it is a stimulus for promoting processes and dealing with situations that would be very difficult undertakings without the dynamic created by the Barcelona Process. In this sense, the Agadir Process – by which Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan are advancing toward mutual free trade – must be linked to the goal of a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area and every progress in the North-South construction to the Agreements of Association of the Barcelona Process. Likewise, the coordinated effort of the eight Arab countries in the southern Mediterranean shore to negotiate with the EU has potential effects beyond the countries involved. This dynamic of mutual relations and cooperation in the South has the potential to significantly transform broader international dynamics in the entire region.

It must be remembered that the Barcelona Process was conceived in the afterglow of the Oslo Accords and at a moment of hopefulness regarding peace in the Middle East. It was conceived for peace and for the construction of peace, as a global framework for a new Mediterranean that could emerge through peace, and as the only structured and stable international forum bringing together Palestinians and Israelis. Prospects for peace now seem distant, both looking back and looking ahead. However, sooner or later — too many deaths later — it will be reborn and peace will be built, the content of which has been known from the start. And the Barcelona Process will be there, already developed in the absence of peace, to take hold of it and build on it, and to build on itself to draw out the full potential of the Mediterranean, to offer the countries of the South a framework of international integration in which to build their own history on a path to a better future.

The Target (the What and the What for): The Mediterranean Approach and Objectives of the Spanish Presidency 2002. The Thinking
If the birth of the Barcelona Process was the strategic objective for the Mediterranean during the Spanish presidency of 1995, the goal in 2002 has been to give it a political boost on the basis of the diagnosis made. How? Through thinking and action, by defining a vision and a project, a strategy and bilateral action, using the presidency to accomplish this.

This thinking involved both analyzing the initial situation, coming to the aforementioned diagnosis, formulating qualitative approaches and methodologies, and developing specific ideas and proposals.
As a starting point, and in order to design the project in general, a process was undertaken involving several diagnostic studies and proposals, as well as inward and outward reflection, both within the government and with relevant players and interlocutors.

Next, consideration was given to the principles that necessarily guide the desired development of the Barcelona Process:

  • “Co-ownership” of the North-South Process and of the process shared by its 27 members, meaning that the Process ought to change from being a North-to-South policy to being a jointly defined and developed project.
  • Capillarity: the Process must not only be a Process among governments, but rather among all significant players in the governments and societies of the 27 countries subject to international and Mediterranean projection. The construction of the Euro-Mediterranean space must therefore extend to parliaments and other government authorities, to cities and regions, to universities, to entrepreneurial associations and social organizations and to citizens and public opinion.
  • Structuring: The progress of the Process has until now depended excessively on the state of international and Mediterranean affairs and on the level of priority given to its progress by each European presidency. In order for it to be reflected in reality as a structural priority, it must be provided with mechanisms, structures and institutions that enhance the capacity of the political force behind the Process to function automatically and uninterruptedly and to develop its own dynamics, independent from the shifting weights and balances of political will among the 27.
  • Visibility. It is not enough that the Process advance and bear fruits: it needs to be known –by everyone. The construction of the Euro-Mediterranean space by all the relevant actors will be possible to the extent that the Process, its actions, programs, projects, fruits and results are known and appreciated – to the extent that what is accomplished can be made visible.
  • Specificity. In order for the principles and objectives of the Process to move from paper to reality, it is essential that they are specified in programs, projects, mechanisms and initiatives that share and transform that reality.
  • Efficiency. The consolidation and progress of the Process does not only depend on what is done, but also on how it is done. Statistics such as the low level of implementation of MEDA I clearly compromise its image and credibility. What gets done must be done efficiently.
  • Credibility. This is an ultimate principle and goal, and is also the light by which to evaluate initiatives and actions.

Finally, the ideas and proposals aimed at giving the desired boost to the Process, refer both to form and content.
In terms of form, Spain’s strategic ambition and driving idea is focused on the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference adopting an Action Plan during its presidency, which implies both an idea of the set of decisions and initiatives to be adopted and the consensual adoption of this Plan by the 27 members of the Process. Bearing in mind that since the Barcelona Declaration, the documents adopted by the ministerial conferences have been taken as conclusions of each European presidency in turn, this in itself has the potential to give the Action Plan special political force, making it a cornerstone of the Process, along with the Barcelona Declaration. This Action Plan, as the name suggests, defines the actions and initiatives that together represent a political boost for the Process, helping make Barcelona a reality. If the Barcelona Declaration describes the Itaca we want to reach or return to on our Mediterranean journey, the Valencia Action Plan was conceived to be the navigational map to get there.

Midway between form and content, Spain’s idea is to use its presidency to become victim of its own success: to move the Process so that it is significantly less dependent on the boost or priority that each European presidency may give to it; to help it function automatically and to transform it to meet its defined principles, to the extent that this is made possible by a set of forces in which Spain maintains a bilaterally extreme position.
In terms of content, it is essential that the Plan contains a set of programs and initiatives in each area or chapter of the Process, some of these with the power to establish structural supports for the desired qualitative leap forward, enabling them collectively to bring together the critical mass to make the Valencia Action Plan, both in form and in content, the incarnation of the political boost the Process needs. Its initiatives must be designed ambitiously, with the idea that, despite the political cost that failures may imply, the Process will make more headway by making 100 proposals and successfully completing 40 than by making 50 and succeeding in 30. Among other proposals that will be considered later in this paper, we could highlight the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Development Bank, a Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, a Euro-Mediterranean foundation for dialogue between cultures and civilizations, and an initiative for cooperation among Justice and Interior ministries and universities.
Defining what these considerations and goals are is important, but so is how they are perceived: i.e. the interaction, awareness and perception of Spain’s proposals by the other relevant actors. And from the perspective of Spain’s foreign policy and national interest, they can be seen in two lights: first, the strategic objective of the Valencia Action Plan as the navigational map for giving a political boost to the Barcelona Process; and second, the intangible goal of improving our relative position, prestige, moral authority and bilateral relations in the Mediterranean, especially with the southern members. From this point of view, Spain’s efforts and ambition may be profitable even if they meet with failure.

The Path (the How): Strategy and Tactics of the Spanish Presidency. The Action
To explain the how of Spain’s presidency requires two prior considerations:

First of all, belief in the practical advantages of the theory, in the value of developing our own analysis, vision and proposals regarding the Mediterranean and the long-term development of the Barcelona Process, beyond what can be accomplished during the presidency itself, and in the ability to make proposals as a decisive factor in Spain’s role as a player. This Process must be both inward and outward, developing and politically shaping a global vision and initiatives to make it a reality.

Secondly, the human team and the administrative structure responsible for promoting and implementing the Spanish presidency. This involves three essential elements: the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, directly assuming the leadership of this team devoted to outward political interlocution, driving and politically boosting the project – both designing and promoting it politically before the relevant actors, with the support of its Cabinet as executor and center for political design and preparation of initiatives – and making the Barcelona Process a priority during the presidency; the Ambassador on a Special Mission for Mediterranean Affairs, representing Spain on the Committee of High-level Civil Servants and on the Euromed Committee of the Barcelona Process, and acting as president during the Spanish presidency (Spain’s “Mister Mediterranean”,  negotiating proposals and initiatives on these committees, and acting as itinerant ambassador and salesman throughout the Mediterranean); and a team of professional diplomats assigned to core services, either full time or part time but with clear priority, dealing with all the specialized aspects of the Process, from the political and institutional ones to the ones involving the foundations of the Process itself, including JIA, and the dialogue between cultures and civilizations. Furthermore, there is the indispensable work of the Councilor on the Permanent Delegation in Brussels in charge of the Mediterranean, and the dedicated work of the diplomatic missions before the other 26 members of the Process. This is the “hard core” within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, characterized by top-level political management and by the size of the human team (by the standards of this department), whose work is complemented by contributions from other relevant ministries, among them Economy and Science and Technology, responsible for the preparation and presidency, respectively, of the Euro-Mediterranean Conferences of Trade and Industry Ministers, held in Toledo and Malaga before the Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Valencia. And we must not forget the support and political impetus provided by the Presidency of the Government and its International and Security Departments, providing guarantees and aid at the highest level aimed at achieving the desired strategic goal.

Along with the inward process, and following it, the outward process takes two directions:

Within the EU there are, in turn, three directions:

  • The Commission, with which a specific working group was established to prepare the presidency during the semester preceding it. This group was maintained during the presidency, giving rise to an exchange of considerations, a consensus on goals and proposals and a dynamic of joint action and team work that determined the final result. In some sense, the Commission can be understood to have assumed the political will and initiative of the Spanish presidency as a window of opportunity to give impetus to the Barcelona Process, putting its technical capacity at Spain’s service and forming a fundamental strategic alliance for coordinating the Process.
  • The European Parliament, before which the Presidency appeared, to explain both its considerations and goals regarding the Barcelona Process and the results of Valencia. Close contact was also maintained with members of parliament during the process of preparing the report on the preparation of the Valencia Conference (where a talk was given by the parliament member, Pere Esteve) and the creation of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly.
  • The other member states, promoting, on one hand, special consensus with those most committed to the Mediterranean, and on the other hand, an intense political-diplomatic campaign to convince all of them, especially the most reluctant, to support the adoption of a new financial instrument.

Within the southern members, at three levels: presenting the Barcelona Process as a priority issue during bilateral contacts at all levels; special trips made by the Ambassador on a Special Mission, both during the preparatory stage and during the presidency, including those made in the company of the Commission to the Maghreb and to the Mashrek before Valencia, complemented by specific trips and work at the highest level; and close coordination with Tunis as coordinator of the Arab group, in which capacity it played a decisive role in establishing positions and points of consensus. Apart from the symbolic importance of the visits as a demonstration of a desire to consider their positions, a determining factor was the fact that the proposals of the presidency were presented as being open to the contributions of its southern counterparts before becoming definitive. All this contributed to the South’s perception not only of compromise on the content of the proposals, but also of good will in their form, a sense of greater co-ownership of the Process, creating a relationship of confidence and complicity with the presidency that was one of the keys to the results at Valencia.

This informal task of interacting and promoting the project before the relevant actors was the basis for it being progressively adopted by the formal authorities of the Process: first, the meetings of the Committee of High Civil Servants and the Euromed Committee (27) and its preparatory meetings (15) of the Coreper and the Council; then, the adoption of the different documents that led the way to Valencia (4). This was in fact a question of papers giving rise to other papers giving rise to the Valencia Action Plan.

The following observations can be made regarding progress made toward the Plan: 

  • Previous documents: some adopted directly by the Presidency or the Commission, others as the result of negotiations, may in some cases open doors and act as the prerequisite or necessary political support for specific initiatives to be included in the VAP; or they may close doors, since if a specific initiative is not included it cannot appear in a later document – or else they may present doors with pegs, padlocks or peepholes.
  • The time factor: As the Valencia Conference was in April, Spain was left with only a little more than half its presidency, which meant an enormous prior effort to prepare and prioritize the Mediterranean agenda with all decision-making authorities during this period.
  • Relations with the Middle East Peace Process: Faced with a deteriorating situation on the ground and an escalating crisis, Spain took a triple line of action: presentation of a peace proposal for the region at the informal meeting of ministers of Foreign Affairs held in Caceres early in its presidency (which, though not adopted, focused debate and strengthened its credibility); establishment of a single, consensual EU position, enhancing the EU’s role; and EU participation in the initiatives aimed at promoting a negotiated solution, formalized with the creation of the so-called Madrid “quartet”. A detailed analysis of this policy goes beyond the scope of this work. The anticipated adoption of the Valencia Action Plan and the expectations created by this both in form and content, made it possible to hold the Valencia Conference and to adopt the Plan even under the worst possible circumstances in the Middle East. This demonstrates that although the Barcelona Process and the Middle East Peace Process are clearly and closely related, the BP has consolidated relative autonomy and independent dynamics and value.

It is true that, despite the diplomatic efforts made by Spain up to the last moment, Syria and Lebanon were not present in Valencia due to the situation in the Middle East (as a result of which the Spanish presidency seriously considered suspending and postponing the conference), and that the crisis there was the focus of much of the debate among ministers and of media coverage of the event. It is also true that the withdrawal of Arab ministers (though the rest of their delegations remained) when the Israeli representative spoke, symbolized the seriousness of the situation at all levels and Valencia’s inevitable need to focus its attention on this issue, in its role as a forum attended by many of the relevant actors in the crisis,. However, it is also true that Valencia nonetheless “bore up” and achieved its goals of generating the desired political boost to the Barcelona Process; the contacts maintained during the preceding days revealed a clear desire of the South to be present in Valencia, despite the circumstances, as they were convinced that the anticipated approval of the VAP was not an opportunity to be missed; at the CAG of the week before, the Fifteen approved the Considerations and almost all of them committed their help at the ministerial level; despite their absence, Syria and Lebanon did not question the approval of the VAP; and finally, apart from the Middle East Peace Process, the ministers in Valencia also spoke about the content of the VAP, enthusiastically praised its main initiatives and approved them by general consent.

It is also significant that the VAP was approved by the ministers because it reached their tables already approved by general consent by the high-level civil servants representing them in negotiations held during the days before the ministerial conference. Several factors were decisive in these negotiations: the negotiators’ will to reach a consensus and compromise within their respective mandates, their belief in the window of opportunity for advances in the Process to which they were devoting their professional efforts, and their awareness of the risk of leaving key aspects of the VAP open to negotiation by the ministers at a meeting that would inevitably be largely dominated by the Middle East Peace Process, the confidence created by the Presidency among southern members and the Presidency’s flexibility and negotiating skill. This skill was demonstrated in the Presidency’s ability to maintain its national position (clearly in favor of making the greatest possible headway), while also creatively proposing alternatives, and in its ability to put together and prioritize consensus, adjusting to different positions and proposals without renouncing any vital national interest in the final result.

Toledo and Málaga as prelude and preparation for Valencia: The Barcelona V meeting of Foreign Affairs ministers in Valencia was undoubtedly the high point of the Spanish Presidency’s efforts to give political impetus to the Process, as well as being the setting for this to coalesce. However, the prior meetings of ministers of Trade (Toledo, March 10, 2002) and Industry (Malaga, April 9-10, 2002) also helped consolidate the chances for success, as they demonstrated the will to make headway and to approve important proposals in their respective areas – proposals that would be later included in the VAP.

Negotiations for the creation of the EMB as a test case for the possibilities and limits of progress in the Process: limits primarily to be found at the heart of the EU itself, in the national positions of certain member states which, while sharing the position of the Mediterranean as a strategic perimeter of the Union and the goals of the Process, laid down a solid red line regarding the provision of new funds — especially from their own national budgets — and the creation of new institutions. Nonetheless, the “test case” proposal, the analysis of the starting point and the grounds for the need for a flow of private investment, as well as the technical work and political arguments presented by the Spanish presidency in its defense were difficult to contradict. Spain put its full weight behind the proposal, both in terms of technical capacity and political will, and achieved significant success in its campaign in favor of it. This included bringing key commissioners in line with a proposal by the Commission to the Council that keeps open the possibility of creating a Euro-Mediterranean Development Bank, and the acceptance of this by the EIB, as long as the former is a subsidiary of the latter. However, precisely because of its nature as a test case and due to its implications and key importance, although the creation of some kind of financial instrument to spur private investment in the southern Mediterranean was in the works, it was necessary to raise negotiations and decision-making to the highest political level to make it a reality. The creation of a Euro-Mediterranean financial facility was the only initiative adopted in the framework of the BP during the Spanish presidency in conjunction with the European Council. The impasse in negotiations in ECOFIN led Vice-President Rato to call an extraordinary meeting before the European Council meeting in Barcelona. Consensus was reached on a formula for satisfying the two alternatives being considered for realizing the plan: a commitment was made to provide two billion euros annually until 2006 in EIB loans and venture capital for southern members of the BP – nearly double the previous commitment -, establishing a Euro-Mediterranean financial facility backed by the EIB, complemented by a Euro-Mediterranean Agreement to establish this and an EIB office in the region to manage it. The possibility was also left open to decide — after evaluating its performance in the first year and considering the result of consultations with the southern members – whether to turn it into a subsidiary with a majority stake held by the EIB.

Finally, we must consider what has been learned about the actors in the Process, judging by their work and actions during the Spanish presidency. Importantly, the very experience of the presidency demonstrates that it is possible to move the Process forward when a Presidency has weight and moral authority enough to make the Mediterranean a vital setting for its national interests and a strategic priority for satisfying these interests. However, this experience also demonstrates: the BP’s lack of autonomy and its excessive dependence on political impetus in order to advance; the Presidency-Commission strategic alliance as an irreplaceable driving force for this advance; the North-South divide and the differences between EU member states when translating a shared vision and strategic goals into specific commitments; and finally, the importance of how this is approached, the signals given to southern members showing headway in the co-ownership of the Process, the Arab group’s coordinated and decisive definition of its positions, and the important work done by Tunisia in this regard. 

The Goal: The Valencia Action Plan
The content
In addition to the Action Plan, complementary documents were approved in Valencia: the Regional program for cooperation in the area of Justice, the fight against drugs, organized crime and terrorism, cooperation on matters relating to the social integration of immigrants, and migration and the movement of people – a long name to facilitate consensus on the so-called JAI regional program – and the Action Plan for dialogue between cultures and civilizations (fruit of a Spanish-Swedish initiative) which brings together different national initiatives of the 27 and of the EU in this area. Also, like other Euro-Mediterranean ministerial conferences, the Presidency published a document of Conclusions of the Presidency, which brought together what it considered to be the important points approved or dealt with by the ministers, constituting the documentary framework for the debates on the Middle East crisis and the perspectives for its evolution.
A detailed list and analysis of the VAP and its complementary documents goes beyond the scope and purpose of this work, which should be read in conjunction with these. However, we must highlight the most significant points of each chapter:

The VAP begins with an introduction that links it politically to the Barcelona Declaration, reiterating its goals and principles and presenting itself as the instrument for realizing these. It states that “after six years of partnership, the Barcelona Process should reach new levels of Euro-Mediterranean integration, giving new impetus to its relations and promoting a more balanced approach to its common goals”, proposing the need for “a new global assessment and a new commitment on the part of all participants to enable the reactivation of the Process”, while affirming some of the principles of the Process, such as co-ownership and visibility.

In the chapter on political and security partnership, it establishes the focal points for political dialogue, the essential schemes for dialogue and cooperation on terrorism, a more structured dialogue among high-level civil servants on human rights and different partnership building measures).

The chapter on economic and financial partnership includes a wide range of measures and initiatives related to: the conclusion of association agreements and how to bring these into effect; South-South integration and support for the Agadir Process; increasing free trade of services; improvements in access to the European market for agricultural products from the South, requesting that the Commission prepare a study on the impact of the eventual liberalization of trade in the EU and the southern countries; financial cooperation, restating the conclusions of the European Council in Barcelona on the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean financial facility and its possible transformation; improvements in the management of MEDA; investment in infrastructure and interconnections, including various initiatives on transport, energy and telecommunications (cooperation on the GALILEO satellite being a significant example); the Internal Market Program and the harmonization of policies and regulations; the promotion of innovation and access to technology; a stronger role for the private sector; environmental protection; tourism; and a boost to economic dialogue.

In the chapter on social, cultural and human partnership, the conference approves: the framework document of the aforementioned regional JAI project – a goal not achieved by earlier Swedish and Belgian presidencies; a Ministerial Conference on Migration and the Social Integration of Emigrants is scheduled for 2003, as well as the establishment of Euro-Mediterranean Observatory for Employment and Training; “the principle of creating a Euro-Mediterranean foundation to promote dialogue between cultures and civilizations and to increase the visibility of the Barcelona Process through exchanges between intellectual and cultural communities and civil society”; the aforementioned Action Plan for Dialogue between Cultures and Civilizations, aimed at youth, education and the media, expanding the Tempus inter-university program for countries that are candidates for Mediterranean membership (the program is currently valid only for candidates for membership), and other educational programs; a commitment to study the Euromed Pact proposal for cooperation among Euro-Mediterranean cities; and to define as soon as possible the best way to support and develop greater involvement of civil society in the partnership.

In the chapter on institutional provisions, the Conference agrees: “to recommend strengthening the parliamentary dimension through the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly”; to hold meetings of high-level civil servants with the participation of the competent administrators of the ministries of foreign affairs and other measures and principles to improve the working and co-ownership of the institutions in the Process; to hold “like-minded” exercises, establishing a working group to this effect; and to examine different proposals aimed at increasing members’ responsibility and involvement in the development and preparation of action, programs and initiatives through better structured dialogue.

Finally, the chapter on monitoring – the existence of which is in itself of political value, guaranteeing the credibility and fulfillment of the Plan – establishes that this will first be evaluated at Barcelona VI (during the Italian presidency in the second semester of 2003). The Conference instructs the Euromed Committee to examine appropriate mechanisms for monitoring and implementing the Action Plan.

The results
Our analysis of the VAP leads us to reaffirm its importance and potential, both in terms of what it does and also how. In terms of how, it has political value in itself as the only document of the Process adopted unanimously by all its members since the Barcelona Declaration. In the different proposals and initiatives it contains, it represents substantial progress toward the proposed principles of co-ownership, structuring, automatic functioning, visibility, capillarity, specificity, efficiency and credibility, reflected among other ways in its new ways of functioning, new institutions and mechanisms, the extension of the Process to the universities, cities and other social players, and the fact that the Plan is subject to monitoring and evaluation. In terms of what, we find a combination of specific measures and grand initiatives in each chapter that, all together, form a critical mass and that lay down foundations capable of representing and driving the qualitative leap desired for the Process as a whole and for each of its areas.

Mission accomplished? Essentially, yes. Like anything else, Valencia may be considered in absolute or relative terms. On the whole, and in absolute terms, the VAP represents the aforementioned qualitative leap, acting as the long-sought navigational map for bringing the spirit and goals of the Barcelona Declaration closer to reality —  a navigational map, however, for a journey still to be made, since Valencia is both the starting point and the end.

In relative terms, Valencia can be evaluated from different perspectives:

  • From the perspective of the international situation and context in which it was held, Valencia represents the “emancipation” of the BP from the Middle East Peace Process, as we have discussed.
  • In terms of the expectations and goals of the actors involved.
  • Within the EU.
  • From the perspective of the Spanish Presidency. Although it cannot be denied that not all its negotiations were easy and not all its ideas were brought to fruition and that in some cases not all that was desired was accomplished, it can also be affirmed that no doors were shut entirely, and in no case did the presidency have to abandon its basic approach. Above all, it was an overall success, which confirms that its approach, its ambition and the strategy prepared to implement its approach were correct in terms of their preparation, content and negotiation – in the what and the how. From the perspective of Spain’s foreign policy and national interest, Valencia was an intangible asset strengthening bilateral relations with the southern members, Spain’s Mediterranean policy, the country’s overall weight within the EU and its external projection in general.
  • As a political bet by the Commission on the window of opportunity offered  by the Spanish presidency to advance with the Process; and a Presidency-Commission strategic alliance as a driving force and the basis for these advances.
  • In terms of the differences among the members states: on the part of certain non-Mediterranean countries, the existence of solid red lines regarding their implication in providing instruments and financing, even when they shared a vision of the Mediterranean as a strategic border of the Union and the considerations and goals of the BP.
  • Among southern members, an especially important intangible result of Valencia was the how effect: the increasing perception of co-ownership, the feeling and expectations generated by their participation in and appropriation of the Process, as well as the consolidation of the Process as the ideal framework for their integration in the international system (of even greater strategic value for them than for the EU, since it provides not only the framework for their relations with the Union as their main international partner, but also makes it possible to develop dynamics of cooperation, integration and bilateral relations among them, which would be very difficult to achieve in absence of this framework.
  • In terms of the objectives put forward in the different preparatory documents mentioned above, which largely found expression in the VAP.

Finally, Valencia also resulted in the intangible asset of clearly presenting the vision, discourse and project for the Mediterranean and the Barcelona Process for consideration within the EU and the southern members of the Process, and also before Spanish public opinion, other relevant international players and world public opinion.

The Future and its Challenges
The VAP is the fruit of consensus and negotiation, of a correlation of forces and the momentum created by the arrival of the moment of truth; it is the result of a compromise among actors who wanted to go farther and others who wanted to stay closer to shore. After negotiations, tension among them does not disappear, but rather passes on to the implementation stage, to negotiations on implementation, the interpretation of what has been negotiated. The move from paper to reality may result in different possible scenarios and concrete results.

What does this move imply? There will inevitably be various different scenarios and directions: 

  • The start-up of the programs and mechanisms that were approved, such as the regional JAI program or the EIB financial facility, in which the Commission and the EIB are key players.
  • The creation of new institutions, such as the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures and Civilizations, and perhaps the Euro-Mediterranean Bank as a subsidiary of the EIB. In all these cases, this implies processes of negotiation in which the positions, alliances and negotiating strategies of the different actors involved will determine the final result, and whether this is appropriate to the spirit, focus and political intentions of Valencia, where they were created.
  • The implementation of how, or the how involved in the implementation… maintaining and advancing with the proposed principles and the form and spirit in which negotiations were carried out, consolidating Valencia’s intangible qualities and the expectations arising from it. It is important not only what it implemented, but also how and for whom.
  • Starting up the implementing and monitoring mechanism, with all its potential for giving impetus to co-ownership and automatic functioning. This mechanism could take many forms (one operative formula would be to combine a small but representative number of members of the Process, among them those holding the European presidency between Barcelona V and Barcelona VI, the Commission, the coordinator of the Arab group and other members representing the South) and a great variety of structures if it is to assume, as would be desirable, a role in the process of creating the aforementioned institutions, including the relevant actors in each case.
  • The time factor must be considered, since Barcelona VI is without doubt the goal or final destination on the VAP navigational map. However, it may also be the starting point for the configuration of a new strategic relationship for a EU about to expand, for which the Mediterranean will become its nearer frontier – rethinking and taking a long-term look at the future of the Barcelona Process, beyond the implementation of the Valencia agreements, from the perspective of a new EU.

Clearly, making progress with the Barcelona Process is like riding a bicycle: if you don’t pedal, you fall. We must keep pedaling, thinking, proposing and realizing the Barcelona Process. Its goals may never be entirely reached, but they are surely the necessary ones. We must be aware that history has never created utopias, but has indeed been moved by them.

Along with global considerations for the future, each actor sees things form his own particular perspective. It goes beyond the scope of this work to deal with the perspectives of other countries, but I do not want to conclude without mentioning that of Spain, which in my opinion, after Valencia faces the great challenge of defining and pursuing goals that serve its national interests in the Mediterranean, while at the same time consolidating its capacity and moral authority as a regional “thinker”, as an international actor which not only plays the game in this area so vital to its interests, but also ponders and contributes to its evolution. And it ponders in terms of positive peace, cooperation for democracy, sustainable development and dialogue between cultures and civilizations. At this point along the road, we must look back with satisfaction at the distance traveled by Spain, which set itself the challenge of developing as a medium power with special influence in the Mediterranean, and also at the challenge we faced in terms of the national maturity of the state and society. The Mare Nostrum as our home and vital surroundings has been assumed in the consciousness and action of all the relevant actors in the Spanish government, society and public opinion, as well as the need to properly use the international capital we have accumulated.

On the whole, the great challenge that Valencia presents us in terms of the future involves assuming not only the specific actions and initiatives of the VAP, but also the global vision of the Mediterranean identified with positive peace by all its players and international society in general: the challenge of transforming a sea of conflict into a possible example of the evolution of “spaceship Earth”, to use Kenneth Boulding’s term. The victory not only of action, but also of the ideas that inspire it, with all its enormous significance for peace and security and relations between cultures and civilizations — its potential for being Europe’s best answer to these challenges. If, as Foucault suggested, prison is within oneself, the Mediterranean, whose construction is the goal of the Barcelona Process, may be found within us too.


(1) Morán, Fernando. Una Política Exterior para España, Madrid, Planeta, 1980.
(2) For a complete overview of Spanish foreign policy and EU-Latin American relations and their approach in terms of the Latin-American Summits, see, respectively: Montobbio, Manuel, “La política exterior española y las relaciones UE-América Latina”, in Revista Española de Desarrollo y Cooperación, 3, autumn-winter 1998-99; and Montobbio, Manuel, “El camino de la bicicleta. Reflexiones sobre el sentido, logros y retos de las Cumbres Ibero-Americanas”, in Francisco Rojas Aravena (ed.), Las Cumbres Ibero-Americanas, Caracas, FLACSO-Nueva Sociedad, 2000, and in Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals, 51-52, 2001.
(3) Esther Barbé and Elisabeth Johanson, Las nuevas fronteras de la PESC: un estudio sobre el papel internacional de la Europa ampliada. Informe I. La frontera sur de la UE: el Mediterráneo, Instituto Universitario de Estudios Europeos/Observatorio de Política Exterior Europea, UAB.
(4) Priorities of the Spanish Presidency for implementing the Mediterranean Common Strategy during its term (18-1-2002), Communication by the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament regarding preparation for the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference in Valencia (18-2-2002), Report by the Commission to the Council on the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean Bank, Conclusions of the ECOFIN and the European Council in Barcelona on the creation of a financial facility for the Mediterranean, Report by the European Parliament on the Communication by the Commission (21-3-2002), EU Considerations for the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference (CAG 15-4-2002).

Manuel Montobbio

Written by Manuel Montobbio