Sipa via AP‘
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Egyptian President and summit
co-chair Hosni Mubarak, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UN Secretary
General Ban Ki-Moon give a joint press conference at the end of the Paris Union for the
Mediterranean founding summit at the Grand Palais in the French capital city. (AP)

Sarkozy’s ‘Club Med’ Comes to Order

July 14, 2008 05:00 PM
by Christopher Coats
French President Nicolas Sarkozy opened the first summit of the newly formed Mediterranean Union, taking a broader approach to regional stability and well-being.

30-Second Summary

First proposed last summer, Sarkozy’s alliance of 42 nations is the president’s attempt to tackle a range of issues affecting countries from Syria to Spain.

While Sarkozy has said the alliance is aimed at addressing a wide range of problems, from environmental concerns to immigration, most of the summit’s coverage has focused on peace and stability in the Middle East.

Both critics and supporters have suggested that the summit is Sarkozy’s way of injecting French influence back into European policy-making after steady distancing under ex-president Jacques Chirac.

Held in Paris over the weekend, the union’s first meeting was a mix of optimism and anger, as Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad walked out halfway through a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Sarkozy downplayed regional tension, including the absence of Morocco’s Muhammad VI, who sent his brother, and the boycott by Libya’s President Muammar Gaddafi, who called the effort a new type of “colonialism” due to the large proportion of EU states versus those from Africa.

Specifically, the French president cited the talks between Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as proof that the approach could prove successful.

Plagued by obstruction and protest from all sides since first being proposed, the new gathering has most recently been criticized for placing important issues such as immigration on the back burner.

Headline Links: Mediterranean union gets underway

Background: Sarkozy key supporter for union

Reactions: Sarkozy and Olmert find relief from domestic tension

Opinion & Analysis: Gaddafi; France as a political presence

Reference: The Mediterranean Union


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