The Union for the Mediterranean was launched by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his presidential campaign in 2007. It is a revive of the Barcelona Process and includes all 27-member states within the European Union and states from Balkan, north Africa, the Arab world and Israel. In his presidential speech Sarkozy stressed the importance of making peace in the world. He said that with this project “we will build peace in the Mediterranean together, like yesterday we built peace in Europe”. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7504214.stm retrieved 28.11.2010)
However, this peace-project has been criticized for being far too Europeanized as to make any sense for most states involved. Words such as ‘failure’ ‘falter’ and ‘weakness of the Union’ are being used when describing this project. In the newspaper Afrique en ligne one could read that Tawfik Ben Adallah, the General Secretary of African Social Forum says that this Union has ‘very little chance of success’ because of the ‘overwhelming influence of Europe’. (http://www.afriquejet.com/news/africa-news/economist-predicts-failure-of-the-mediterranean-union-2009073132667.html retrieved 28.11.2010) Moreover, Sarkozy has been criticised for initiating this project as a way to keep Turkey and other candidate countries at a safe distance. One could argue that this area building project is marked by deficiency. The theory of Felix Ciuta would be useful in understanding the reason behind and perhaps even the supposedly failure of the making of a Mediterranean Union.
Following Felix Ciuta, a senior lecturer in IR, and his article Region? Why Region? Security, Hermeneutics, and the Making of the Black Sea Region regional entrepreneurs uses different ‘conceptual categories’ as a mean for justifying their initiatives. (Ciuta,2008, p.120) Ciuta argues that in order to understand the reasons behind area/regional making one need to look at the different contexts, main actors and their meaning of the concept of area/region. Thus having a Hermeneutic perspective is important because according to Ciuta, regions do not exist objectively. There is ‘interplay between conceptual logic and political praxis.’ (Ciuta, 2008,p.138) Hence, if we were to apply this theory to the making of the Mediterranean Union, we would have to consider the different concepts used by all main actors as well as the effects it have and from which political context it is taking place. Due to the large amount of actors and their presumably different reasons for such an area-making there would most probably be different answers to the question. This is not necessarily a problem per se, due to the different interpretations of concepts and contexts this would come down to the idea of ‘double hermeneutics’ Anthony Giddens theory on which Felix Ciuta builds his theory on.
Within his article and in relation to the Black Sea regional making, Ciuta brings forward four different conceptualisations of the region as:
‘(1) a security complex,
(2) a geopolitical entity,
(3) the product of a historically and geographically grounded common identity and
(4) a discursive construction.’ (Ciuta, 2008, p. 128, )
As mentioned, critics from non-European countries have been raised concerning the ‘Europeanized’ focus on the Mediterranean Union project. This and the fact that all countries involved are geographically spread make it hard to believe it would ever be considered as having a historically and geographically grounded common identity. However, Sarkozy’s normative focus on building peace, stability and prosperity could be seen as belonging within this concept.
But what is most interesting within this discourse is the overall limited use of these previously mentioned concepts by different actors. As mentioned, the focus seem to be on the supposedly ‘failure’ and the problems surrounding this project. In this sense, using Ciuta’s theory would be useful when looking at the project of the Mediterranean Union. The focus on multiple concepts that together shape and are shaped by the making of an area/region is one reason. In this case different perceptions of what the aim for the Mediterranean Union is. Is it a peace-project or a security strategy? Perhaps both? From the perspective of the European Union? Or France? Turkey? The political context in which it takes place is most important and for this reason there would not be one answer to why the Mediterranean Union came in place ? There will be different reasons depending on context, the actors and their meaning of the regional concepts. For this reason Felix Ciuata’s Hermeneutical contribution to the study of regions is important. There is a growth of regionalism within Europe and a static view is not enough for understanding this contemporary process.
Sami El Habti