With its 900 kilometres of southern coastlines, France is a country that opens onto the Mediterranean region. An area shared by 24 States and three continents, home to more than 400 million inhabitants, the Mediterranean is marked by historical ties that link the two shores and shared opportunities for development and growth.
France’s Mediterranean policy is founded on three key areas:
- Enhancing dialogue in multilateral bodies,
- Promoting a policy oriented towards civil society and young people,
- Supporting a strong European ambition in the Southern Neighbourhood.
It is implemented through a positive agenda and unifying topics:
- The environment, biodiversity and climate,
- Innovation, digital technology and entrepreneurship,
- Employment, training and mobility,
- Culture and heritage,
- Gender and solidarity.
This momentum picked up pace at the European level with the Barcelona Process in 1995, and in the late 2000s, with the creation of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
In 2019, the Summit of the Two Shores, which was oriented towards civil society, also marked a renewal of France’s Mediterranean policy.
France promotes dialogue between countries in the Mediterranean region within various multilateral bodies.
Informal small-format meetings within the 5+5 Dialogue
The 5+5 Dialogue is the oldest meeting framework among “Western” Mediterranean countries. It brings together representatives at ministerial level of five Northern – Portugal, France, Italy, Malta, Spain – and five Southern – Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt – countries. The group is informal and helps increase integration in the Mediterranean basin.
Originally bringing together the Foreign Affairs Ministers, it expanded to include more and more varied topics: Interior, Migration, Transport, Defence, Education, Environment, Agriculture, Water, Economics, Higher Education, Culture, etc.
The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM): a new space for dialogue, created at France’s initiative
The Union for the Mediterranean was founded in 2008 at the initiative of France to promote dialogue and cooperation in the region. It is a unique intergovernmental organization, because it brings together 42 countries including all EU Member States and all countries in the Mediterranean region.
France maintains bilateral relations with every State on the southern and eastern banks of the Mediterranean. For more than a decade, civil society organizations have also been key partners in international relations for France.
The action of these structures goes hand in hand with that of States and the Mediterranean region is characterised by the vibrancy of the initiatives led by a variety of stakeholders: associations, local governments, universities, research centres, businesses, foundations, etc.
In the Mediterranean region, close dialogue has been established with these non-State stakeholders, which are a significant indicator of citizen involvement, especially since the revolutionary movements in the Arab world.
The Dialogue of the Two Shores
Launched at the Summit of the Two Shores, which was held in Marseille in June 2019, the Dialogue of the Two Shores brings together civil society actors of the Northern and Southern shores, with a pro-active approach.
Building on a new form of consultation with Mediterranean civil society, the Dialogue of the Two Shores revived cooperation between countries in the Western Mediterranean by implementing projects that support human, economic and sustainable development in the region.
Flagship projects that contribute to the implementation of the commitments made in Marseille in 2019 have already begun their actions on the ground in various fields:
- sustainable development and the circular economy (partnerships for sustainable coastal cities in the Western Mediterranean)
- training and professional integration (New Chance Mediterranean network), heritage (CoPaM),
- Culture (Books of the two shores),
- Innovation and entrepreneurship (Emerging Mediterranean).
The Mediterranean Forum
In order to continue and accelerate this momentum, the organization of a Mediterranean Forum was announced by President Emmanuel Macron. It will be held in Marseille in 2022. The aim is to expand the scope of the Dialogue of the Two Shores, by bringing together “all civil societies in the Mediterranean basin”, “including countries sometimes at war” on the matters of “cultural, entrepreneurial and social ambitions”.
The renewed Southern Neighbourhood policy also enables France to promote, at the European level, this partnership-based, positive approach in the Mediterranean. It is aligned with the points set out in the joint communication adopted by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on 9 February 2021.
This new ambitious programme is focused on five areas for action:
1. Human development, good governance and the rule of law,
2. Resilience, prosperity and the digital transition,
3. Peace and security,
4. Migration and mobility,
5. The green transition: climate resilience, energy and the environment.
This European policy concerns the following countries: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia.