Beyond Barcelona

As just mentioned, the important Barcelona Process has fallen short of its objectives. These shortfalls can be distilled down to the fact that decisions made in Europe were to apply to all signatories to the process (Mohsen-Finan 2009, 96) and that Arab societies were not involved, even if they were featured prominently in the objectives set out in the Barcelona Declaration of 1995. But there were also other issues, such as the problem of getting governments to commit to the principles established in 1995 (the rule of law, human rights, democracy), as well as a limited cross-border movement of goods and persons, especially in connection with the agriculture sector.

Another failure of the Barcelona Process is that it was hampered in its attempt to enforce a common security policy. This was due to the breakdown of peace talks in the Middle East.[1] Even the attempt made to arrive at a shared definition of terrorism came to nothing, considering the divergent assessments that European and Muslim countries had of terrorism. Despite these differences, however, as Annette Junemann (2005, 8) underscores, a vast and deep network of relations was created, leading to a socialization effect that in turn engendered a spirit of partnership (Partnerschaftsgeist).

X turning point in relations between the EU and North Africa came with the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), introduced in 2003. According to Javier Solana, the EU’s first high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), one of the chief EU objectives in this policy area was to achieve stability: “The prospect of enlargement is a powerful incentive. An enlarged Union will impact on our relationship with our neighbours: the Balkans, Russia, Ukraine, and to the south the countries of North Africa and the Middle East. If these regions are unstable, Europe will not be able to live in security” (Solana 2001; cf. Gomez 2018, 1).

Under the ENP, relations between the EU and the North African countries are essentially measured against the Barcelona Process, in that relations with these countries are managed through action plans which the EU works out with each of the countries in question, identifying reforms for which the EU will provide financial aid. “The most novel aspect of the ENP is the offer of a ‘stake in the internal market’ and the participation in EU programs” (Zank 2016, 137), where “stake in the internal market” means “assistance in adapting to the complex market regulations of the EU, in joining standardization bodies, and in improving the exchange of information” (ibid.). The first actions plans came in December 2004, addressing “Morocco and Tunisia, the traditional frontrunners in cooperation with the EU” (ibid.).

But adapting to EU market regulations is not just about achieving a streamlined market: it also carries significant economic and political implications with controversial outcomes. On the economic side, “proper integration into the EU’s market presupposes ending state aid to companies, and this will presumably cost jobs” (ibid.). On the political side, “there is a fundamental asymmetry in this construction because the rule-makers for this market, the main supervisory bodies, and the dispute-settlement institutions such as the European Court of Justice are all EU institutions. Countries outside the EU have to adapt” (ibid., 138; italics added).

  • [1] The third objective was to achieve a “contagion” effect that would lead to peace. The idea here was that economic development would propel the process towards democracy, which in turn would help along the Arab-Israeli peace process. In reality, Khader comments, the easing of trade restrictions was modest, as were foreign investment, job creation, and the growth of the middle class. All the while, the peace process went nowhere.
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