Documents considered by the Committee on 8th December 2010 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

16 Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean



COM(08) 319

Commission Communication: Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean

Legal base
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 1 December 2010
Previous Committee ReportHC 19-xvii (2008-09), chapter 7 (14 October 2009); HC 19-xv (2008-09), chapter 1 (29 April 2009); HC 16-xxix (2007-08), chapter 6 (10 September 2008) and HC 16-xxiv (2007-08), chapter 5 (18 June 2008); also see (29029) —: HC 16-i (2007-08), chapter 2 (7 November 2007)
Discussed in Council16 June 2008 General Affairs and External Relations Council and 20 June 2008 European Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


16.1 The March 2008 European Council "approved the principle of a Union for the Mediterranean which will include the Member States of the EU and the non-EU Mediterranean coastal states" and "invited the Commission to present to the Council the necessary proposals for defining the modalities of what will be called "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean" with a view to the Summit which will take place in Paris on 13 July 2008."

16.2 The Barcelona Process (a.k.a. the Euro-Med Process) was launched during the 1995 Spanish Presidency between the EU and its Mediterranean partners — Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey (Libya has observer status since 1999) — with the aim of building "a space of dialogue, peace, security and shared prosperity". At the outset, now nearly 14 years ago, the Commission described this as "a turning point in Euro-Mediterranean relations". On examining the most recent Commission Communication on the Process in November 2007, the previous Committee concluded that, in reality, it had become impossible to judge the extent to which the Process was merely processing, rather than achieving concrete outcomes; and that, with approximately €4.7 billion committed in 2000-06 and a further €1.3 billion earmarked for 2007-10, it was time to examine the Process more closely, via a debate on the Communication in the European Standing Committee.[73] That debate took place on 22 January 2008.[74]

16.3 During that debate, there was some, perforce limited, discussion of President Sarkozy's idea of a "Union of the Mediterranean", which would apparently have been restricted to Mediterranean EU Member States and the Mediterranean partners. However, Chancellor Merkel opposed the notion that EU funds should be used in this way for the benefit of only some Member States — hence the compromise embodied in the European Council Conclusions, which includes all 27 Member States and all 700 million people on both sides of the Mediterranean (now including Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Monaco).

The Commission Communication

16.4 The Communication (which the previous Committee considered on 18 June 2008)[75] sets out the rationale for the Process and a vision for enhanced co-operation. The intention was to build on the existing process, but add a number of higher-profile projects to give added impetus and visibility. Funding arrangements were somewhat imprecise. The Commission noted that the EU and its Member States already provided significant funding in the Mediterranean region,[76] but that "to bring added value to existing arrangements, the "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean" should be designed to mobilise additional funding for the region, mainly through regional projects", and that "its added value will very much depend on its capacity to attract more financial resources for regional projects." While saying that there could be no prior earmarking of EU funds, the Commission said that "certain projects which fit with the objectives of EU regional programmes can be considered for funding",[77] and also that additional funding for regional projects and activities should come mainly from the following sources:

—  private sector participation;

—  bilateral cooperation from Member States;

—  contributions from Mediterranean partners;

—  international financial institutions, regional banks and other bilateral funds;

—  the Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership Facility (FEMIP), which was created in 2002 as a tool to foster private sector development in the Mediterranean region and combines EIB loans with EU-budget resources to provide technical assistance, risk capital and interest rate subsidies;

—  the ENPI, as well as the other instruments applicable to the countries covered by the existing Euro-Med Process.

16.5 In his accompanying Explanatory Memorandum, the then Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr Jim Murphy) shared the concerns of other Member States that the Barcelona Process, "though useful, needed a strategic refresh." The Union for the Mediterranean would "upgrade this important relationship." The Communication offered "a realistic assessment of what has been achieved, and the areas for further development." The European Neighbourhood Policy had primarily been an instrument of bilateral cooperation between the EU and each partner country; it had been less successful at promoting regional integration and cohesion; the projects identified by the Commission were "potentially promising" and would help "fill that gap." He would explore the specific proposals the Commission had made on governance arrangements with EU and Mediterranean partners, before detailed modalities were submitted for approval in November 2008, when EuroMed Foreign Ministers would meet. He "tended to favour a light Secretariat (with Commission involvement) which would help to coordinate the Process effectively." He would "update the Committee in the autumn as this debate unfolds", after the formal French Presidency launch in Paris on 13 July 2008.

16.6 The previous Committee asked the then Minister to write after the July Summit to let it know the outcomes. They also noted a number of questions that came to mind. The Commission talked of the need for additional funding. But a great deal of money had been spent so far, with only limited outcomes. They wondered if more money was the answer; where would it come from; and what would ensure that it was spent effectively.

16.7 They also asked to know in due course the arrangements envisaged for the proposed secretariat — in particular, how it would fit in with the existing modalities of the Barcelona Process; how those modalities would be changed; and how those changes would lead to better outcomes, more visibility and more real ownership by the Mediterranean partners than had been the case hitherto under the Barcelona Process.

16.8 In the meantime, they retained the Communication under scrutiny.[78]

The then Minister's letter of 21 July 2008

16.9 A letter from then Minister for Europe of 21 July noted that the Summit was attended by the then Prime Minister, and that the Foreign Secretary had helped to finalise the Summit Declaration, which set out the purpose of the UMed and the areas for action reinforcing the Barcelona process.[79] Some useful work had been conducted on energy, environment, and political dialogue. The Summit had been a valuable occasion to bring political leaders from the EU and the Mediterranean together, with a number of highly symbolic moments. Looking ahead, the then Minister said that he would write to the Committee during the autumn about "discussions around the governance and funding of the Union for the Mediterranean, which will need to be resolved in advance of the November Foreign Ministers' meeting." For his own part, the then Minister said that:

—  he would "continue to argue for a light secretariat with well-defined objectives", and "would have concerns about any EC Budget funds being called on to finance the administrative structures proposed";

—  projects that were to be supported by the EC Budget should come from existing rather than additional resources; and

—  there should there be no diversion of funding within the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument framework.

16.10 The previous Committee thanked the then Minister for this comprehensive update, and looked forward to hearing more from him as discussions continued (including, at some stage before proposals were finalised for discussion in November, the answer to its earlier questions). They also asked to know what aspects of the Declaration he considered to be of particular value. In the meantime, the document was retained under scrutiny.

The then Minister's letter of 22 April 2009

16.11 A response finally appeared in a letter of 22 April 2009 from his successor, the then Minister for Europe (Caroline Flint). She said that "the creation of UMed remains an important political issue to the United Kingdom", and was "a potentially useful tool to promote dialogue on security, the environment, confidence building and business and to implement projects along these lines." The then Government wanted to ensure that "the good work" carried out under the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument and the EU's Association Agreements in the region continued unaffected; to keep its funding light, shared between all partners and focused on delivering tangible projects in the region; and with "key objectives" of "inclusivity and to create a true partnership between the EU and the Mediterranean countries."

16.12 The Minister then reported that the 3-4 November 2008 Marseilles Summit had agreed:

—  Barcelona as the seat for the Secretariat. No details were developed for the Secretariat other than, at UK insistence, language was inserted into the declaration that the EU's share of the funding should come from existing European Neighbourhood Partners Instrument allocations;

—  the Secretariat would have a Secretary General from a Southern Mediterranean Partner country and five confirmed Deputy Secretary General slots: tacitly agreed to go to Malta, Italy, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Greece (there was disagreement over a sixth position which Turkey could hold, which France, as UMed Co-Presidency, was attempting to resolve by talking to Turkey and Cyprus). The Secretary General and each of the deputy Secretary Generals would be given a specific area of competence;

—  the development of the Secretariat's Statutes, funding and mandate would be taken forward at working level;

—  Israel had dropped its concerns over Arab League involvement, ending the suspension of UMed meetings, which had "prevented much of the detail around governance and funding, especially the planned Secretariat, being fully defined and discussed."

16.13 The then Minister also outlined the matter of the UMed Co-Presidency: the Paris summit in July 2008 had agreed that there would be two co-presidents of UMed, one from the Southern Partners rotating every two years and one from the EU, held by the EU Presidency of the time. It was suggested that France could remain as UMed co-presidency for two years so as to add consistency to the process. The matter was resolved with the French and Czech Governments agreeing that France would remain as Co-President of UMed working alongside the current Czech EU Presidency. The Government had continued "to emphasise the importance of adhering to existing rules on external EU representation."

16.14 Finally, the then Minister outlined the state of play on the Secretariat: despite the suspension, negotiations within the EU focused on preparing the Statutes to establish the secretariat and govern its operations. The then Minister wanted to ensure that there was Council oversight and approval of the draft texts and that procedures were put in place to ensure effective coordination within the EU in relation to the future activities of the Secretariat, and had asked for greater discussion on how UMed would tie in with existing EU work in the Mediterranean region and an agreed EU position before further discussion of this outside the EU. The then Minister was in particular "pushing for:

—  Clear text in the Statutes, clarity on their status and an agreed EU position before any wider discussions with the non-EU UMed members take place;

—  Normal EU coordination procedures to apply for the creation of an EU position on the work of the Secretariat once it is established; and

—  Ensuring that the prerogatives of the European Parliament are respected, particularly on monitoring the budget."

16.15 Noting that "the basis for the establishment of the UMed Secretariat flows from the Ministerial declarations and UMed has always been a fluid and informal process", the then Minister said that she expected further discussion in the EU regarding the Secretariat Statutes along the lines set out above, "although at this stage we do not expect a Council Decision", and undertook to update the Committee "as negotiations progress."

The previous Committee's assessment

16.16 The contrast between the aspirations set out in the then Minister's opening remarks — particularly "inclusivity" and "a true partnership between the EU and the Mediterranean countries" — and everything that followed was, the previous Committee felt, striking, and gave little comfort to those who struggled to see how this initiative was likely to lead to any improvement on the Barcelona Process. At the practical level, politics and horse-trading were already prevalent: otherwise, why create five confirmed Deputy Secretary General slots before working out what they were going to do? On all other aspects of the Secretariat and funding, it seemed that everything was still to be determined.

16.17 The previous Committee therefore continued to retain the Communication under scrutiny, pending further information from the then Minister — including answers to its questions concerning how more money was likely to be the answer, when €6 billion had been spent or committed thus far on the existing Process; where it would come from; and what would ensure that it was spent effectively. When that was forthcoming, the previous Committee also asked the then Minister to explain what the "existing rules on external EU representation", to which she had referred, were, and how they had been protected; and also to explain how the statutes could properly be adopted other than by a Council Decision. The previous Committee also take the opportunity to remind her that they had asked her predecessor to tell us what aspects in particular of the lengthy Paris Summit Declaration were considered to be of particular value.[80]

The then Minister's letter of 20 July 2009

16.18 The then Minister for Europe (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead) says that the previous Government shared a number of the previous Committee's concerns about the UMed process, "in particular the current uncertainty about its funding and the EU's relationship with the body", and was "working hard to tackle these issues and seek greater clarity as we move forward." However, "the actual process is still in its infancy with progress badly affected by two lengthy suspensions of discussions". Meetings had now resumed and "we will be playing an active role to shape the process and address our concerns."

16.19 The then Minister then sought to address each area of the previous Committee's concerns as follows:


    "Keeping the Secretariat light and functional remains a key priority for the United Kingdom. You raised in this respect the creation of several Deputy Secretary General (DSG) posts. The number of DSGs was instigated by the French co-presidency at the Foreign Ministerial Meeting in Marseille in November 2008 in order to gain political agreement from several partners who were threatening to block the process. We would like to keep the number and roles of the DSGs under review and subject to a revision at the end of their first three-year term.


    "You raised several points on funding, asking "how more money is likely to be the answer, when €6 billion has been spent or committed thus far on the existing Process; where it would come from; and what would ensure that it is spent effectively". UMed is made up of several different elements: the Secretariat which will oversee a variety of projects (yet to be implemented) and sectoral processes continuing from the Barcelona Process, e.g. on migration and water, including at Ministerial level. This means that funding for the whole process comes from a variety of sources.

    "So far, UMed's costs have been limited as there is no Secretariat and few activities: only the circulation of documents and support to some countries to attend meetings. Once a permanent Secretariat is established, most of its core activities, such as local staff and administration, will be funded from the European Neighbourhood & Partnership Instrument's (ENPI) regional funding streams administered by the European Commission (EC). EC funding should be kept within existing resources, respecting the Financial Framework, consistent with what the UK secured in the Paris and Marseille declarations. The actual building will be provided free of charge by the Spanish authorities. The core budget and local staffing costs will be supplemented by those Member States who wish to provide additional voluntary contributions. At this stage we do not envisage additional UK funding.

    "The Barcelona Process (EuroMed) has been funded by the Commission since it was founded in 1995. This funding, which has gone on largely successful programmes such as migration, should not be confused with UMed funding. The ENPI budget for the Southern Partners is about 1 billion Euros per year and is kept under constant review. Only a very small percentage of this goes to UMed. EC funding will be monitored and agreed in the same way as all ENPI funding and the normal rules will apply. The draft Statutes of the Secretariat require the Secretary General to submit annual accounts and work plans to the Senior Officials to ensure oversight of spending and impact.

    "It is too early to establish what percentage of overall budget will be met by the European Commission but there is agreement through the Marseille declaration to keep costs as light as possible. There was also agreement in Paris and Marseille that funding needs to be shared between the North and South shores of the Mediterranean. But some EU member states and some partner countries see the Secretariat being a larger entity. We will resist this approach.


    "UMed is neither a donor organisation nor a funding body. We expect UMed projects to be funded from a wide variety of sources including by member states, the private sector and bodies such as the World Bank, European Investment Bank and European Commission. Project bids can come, and are coming, from groups of states or the funding bodies themselves looking for implementing partners. We expect the Secretariat to provide support in finding project implementers and funders, and we have stressed and secured the need for value for money.


"You asked what the existing rules on external EU representation are and how they are being protected. The procedures applicable to representation of the EU in international bodies have largely evolved as practice rather than being founded on Treaty provisions, although Article 300 EC Treaty is relevant in this regard. Broadly speaking the position is as follows:

  • "For matters falling within the exclusive competence of the Community an agreed position will be worked up in the relevant working group based on a proposal from the Commission and will be presented by the Commission in the body concerned;
  • "For matters falling within the shared competence of the Community and the Member States a common position may be developed which may be presented by either the Commission or the Presidency as appropriate;
  • "For matters falling within Member States exclusive competence, the Member States may agree to develop a coordinated position which the Presidency may be tasked to deliver on their behalf in the relevant body.

    "We value France's ongoing role in UMed and their leadership in pushing forward the UMed project. We were pleased to note that the new Swedish EU Presidency's opening statement at the last Senior Officials meeting on 6 July, stressed that the EU will have a coordinated position on all UMed matters prior to engaging with non-EU UMed members. We strongly support this as it is essential that the EU speaks with one voice and in line with existing treaty obligations.


    "You asked how the statutes could properly be adopted other than by a Council Decision. The UMed Secretariat is intended to remain responsive and flexible, with the Statutes kept under review to ensure they are suitable for its purpose. The Statutes will form the terms under which the Secretariat will operate and are being discussed by an informal drafting group.

    "The basis of the draft Statutes has been drawn from the Paris Declaration, adopted by all Heads of State, and the Marseille declaration, adopted by Foreign Ministers. We expect the Statutes to go to the Senior Officials Group after discussion by the informal drafting group. They should then go to Foreign Ministers for final agreement. We do not expect this to be easy. And partner states could attempt to renegotiate elements with which they were not content, delaying adoption of the Statutes.


    "You asked what aspects of the Paris Summit Declaration we considered to be of particular value. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary agreed the Paris Declaration and we see value and substance in the whole document in creating a strong Union for the Mediterranean. The sections on political commitments and reaffirmations of policy on the Middle East Peace Process, Non-Proliferation of weapons and a strengthening of dialogue between all parties were of paramount importance. What was most important to us was that the document sets out the creation of an organisation which can take forward the implementation of work on energy security, climate change, migration and the other priorities the Declaration mentions."

The previous Committee's assessment

16.20 As helpful as the then Minister's response was, the previous Committee noted that, as she had made clear, the whole exercise continued to be bedevilled by politics, leading to slow progress and a top-heavy Secretariat with, still, no clearly-defined jobs to do. Moreover, there was no guarantee that British views on the nature of the Secretariat and the governing Statutes would prevail. With a Secretary General and five (possibly six) Deputies, all of whom would need staff, the previous Committee found it hard to see how the machinery could ever be "lean".

16.21 The previous Committee also continued to find it difficult to grasp the legal basis upon which it was being set up. The then Minister seemed to suggest that the Declarations issued after the meetings in Paris (heads of government) and Marseilles (foreign ministers) were sufficient. The previous Committee said it was not aware of any precedent, whereby an organisation rooted in the EU and spending EU money, which was (rightly) required to submit accounts and work plans to senior officials, had been set up on this basis. Instead, they felt, it would be necessary for there to be a Council Decision in order to adopt the Statutes, once they had been agreed. They accordingly asked the Minister either to agree with this analysis or explain why she did not.

16.22 In the meantime, they continued to retain the document under scrutiny.[81]

The Minister's letter of 1 December

16.23 The Minister for Europe says that it has recently been brought to his attention that the Committee has not received a reply and is "therefore writing to put this right."

16.24 The Minister begins by referring to the previous Committee's concerns that about the legal basis upon which the UMed was being set up and its suggestion that an EU Council Decision would be appropriate in order to adopt the Statutes of the Secretariat once they had been agreed. He explains that UMed is an inter-governmental body that sits outside the EU institutional structure and, as the EU is not itself a Party to UMed, there was no formal requirement for a Council Decision on adoption of the Statutes (which were finally adopted on 3 March 2010).

16.25 However, he says, in recognition of the need to ensure Ministerial oversight of the work of the Secretariat, Council Conclusions were also agreed, welcoming the adoption of the Statutes, on 10-11 May. He notes that UMed's legal underpinning is unique, it being a political initiative between participating States rather than an international organisation. Though the Political Declarations, building on the existing Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, were judged an adequate way forward, the Secretariat has full legal personality under Spanish law. The EU funding for its operation will come from a general contingency fund, for use at the Commission's discretion, within the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (i.e., the Financial Regulation that underpins the European Neighbourhood Policy).

16.26 The Minister then goes on to say that the following means of oversight of the Secretariat have also been secured:

  • "The European-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly can join Senior Officials' meetings;
  • "The Secretary General must report regularly to the Senior Officials on the Secretariat's activities, including a mid-term review of the annual budget.
  • "The budget, structure and work programme of the Secretariat must be unanimously agreed by Senior Officials;
  • "Any European Commission contributions to the Secretariat must be agreed by the EU's European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument management committee and will be subject to Commission audit procedures.
  • "There must be an annual audit by an external auditor appointed by Senior Officials."

16.27 With regard to the previous Committee's concerns about the proposed structure of the Secretariat, the Minister says:

    "The Statutes state that the Secretary General will be assisted by six Deputy Secretaries General. The Secretary General is responsible for the overall running of the Secretariat and will have full executive authority over its functioning, subject to the powers reserved to the Summit, the Foreign Affairs Ministers' Conference, the appropriate Sectoral Ministerial Meetings or Senior Officials. The key responsibilities of the Secretary General are set out in the Statutes. These include proposing the tasks and responsibilities of the Deputy Secretaries General, each of whom will lead one of the six divisions responsible for implementing the Secretariat's Work Programme, a copy of which was enclosed with my letter of 11 November and which has since been approved by Senior Officials. The guidelines agreed by Senior Officials for the elaboration of the Secretariat's Staff Regulations require that the Regulations include a detailed organigramme with job profiles. Senior Officials have made clear that the Staff Regulations will have to be approved by Senior Officials before the 2011 budget can start.

16.28 On the budgetary aspects, the Minister says:

    "The Statutes state that the Secretariat will have a lean structure and we will continue to work to ensure that the organisation is as lean as possible. In the negotiations on the budget we pushed as hard as we reasonably could to secure reductions in what appeared to be excessive allocations, including personnel costs. The UK was among a small minority of EU Member States pressing hard for reductions and we pressed until there was insufficient support from other Member States to continue doing so, bearing in mind the strong pressure to have a budget in place for the start of the Secretariat's first full year on 1 January. The budget which has now been agreed by Senior Officials totals €6.25 million, which is less than half the total originally proposed, and I believe it represents an acceptable compromise after a long and difficult negotiation involving all 43 UfM participants.

    "Although we were not able to reduce all the costs in the budget as far as we would have wished, including personnel costs, we have ensured that there are safeguards in place to monitor closely the performance and expenditure of the Secretariat and to ensure that there is proper financial management. The Statutes require the Secretariat to provide Senior Officials with an annual financial report on administrative costs and expenditures. The Statutes also state that there must be an annual audit by an external auditor approved by the Senior Officials. The European Community Regulation governing the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, which is the part of the EU budget that is being used for European Commission funding of the Union for the Mediterranean, entitles the Commission and the Court of Auditors to perform audits of the Secretariat as a condition of EU funding. It should also be borne in mind that the European Commission will release the EU's contribution to the Secretariat budget in instalments during the year and not in one lump sum, so the Commission will retain some control over the rate at which the budget is spent. In addition, next year will be the Secretariat's first full year of operations and the results achieved will help to provide a benchmark for its future personnel and financial needs."

16.29 Finally, the Minister notes that the UMed Summit was due to have been held in Barcelona on 21 November was postponed, for a second time, because of the lack of progress on a resumption of direct talks in the Middle East Peace Process, and that a new date has not yet been set: "Although this is disappointing, it should not affect the ability of the Secretariat to become fully operational and to make substantial progress on developing and promoting projects during 2011."


16.30 We are grateful to the Minister for clarifying the basis upon which the UMed process has been established, the Statutes have been adopted and funding provided.

16.31 We commend the efforts he has made to instil some financial discipline into the arrangements, given the uphill struggle involved. Time alone will tell if they are fruitful, and if, the continuing negative political backdrop notwithstanding, the Secretariat is able to live up to the Minister's expectations.

16.32 We now clear the document.

73   See headnote: (29029) -: HC 16-i (2007-08), chapter 2 (7 November 2007). Back

74   See Back

75   See headnote: HC 16-xxiv (2007-08), chapter 5 (18 June 2008). Back

76   See HC 16-xxix (2007-08), chapter 6 (10 September 2008), Annex 1. Back

77   Ibid. Annex 2. Back

78   See headnote: HC 16-xxix (2007-08), chapter 6 (10 September 2008). Back

79   See HC 16-xxix (2007-08), chapter 6 (10 September 2008), Annex 1. Back

80   See headnote: HC 19-xv (2008-09), chapter 1 (29 April 2009). Back

81   See headnote: HC 19-xvii (2008-09), chapter 7 (14 October 2009). Back

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