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The Union of the Mediterranean, or UMed, is a plan suggested by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to loosely unite all countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Originally announced as part of his 2007 presidential campaign, the union would set policies and hold summits on issues relevant to the geographic region. After serious opposition by European Union members, the Union of the Mediterranean plans have been scaled back considerably, and summit meetings are planned in 2008 between the participating nations.
Sarkozy’s initial plan for the Union of the Mediterranean had several purposes. Geographically, the issues for countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea had little to do with Northern European concerns. Sarkozy suggested that the union would serve an important cause by uniting interests of European, North African and Middle East countries. By partnering to discuss and compromise on issues affecting all three areas, the UMed could help bury ideological strife that has existed for thousands of years. Sarkozy also saw the plans as a means of helping to bring peace between Israel and the surrounding Arab nations.
Criticism for the proposed union came from many directions. German opposition suggested that the plan was an attempt by France to gain power, as they would be the largest state in the Union of the Mediterranean. Additionally, Northern European nations believed that it might subvert the aims of the European Union (EU), the international structure that oversees 27 European nations. Of primary concern to the EU nations was the admission of countries that fail to meet the human rights standards necessary to join the European Union.
After considerable negotiation, plans for the Union have undergone many changes. The union is now meant to include all 27 EU nations, as well as all countries with a Mediterranean border. In July of 2008, a three day summit held in France will outline several main goals of the partnership. Among the most pressing issues are the cleaning of the Mediterranean Sea, road construction in North African countries, upgrading port facilities to combat terrorism and illegal immigration, and an increase in solar power use in Mediterranean climates.
Critics of the revised plan suggest that the goals of the original have been diluted by bureaucracy. The initial issue of an organization to deal with specifically Mediterranean problems has been destroyed by the addition of countries in remarkably different regions. Some suggest that the Union of the Mediterranean will do no more than serve as an umbrella organization for the already existing Euro-Mediterranean partnership. It is far from the grand vision of unity initial proposed by the optimistic Sarkozy, but only time will tell if the scaled-back version will have merit of its own.