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Cover Stories Series 2013> Consolidating Sino-French Ties> Archive
UPDATED: August 2, 2008 NO. 32 AUG. 7, 2008
Sea Change
At a summit meeting in France, European and Mediterranean countries take their partnerships to the next level

Another regional organization was born on July 13. The Union for the Mediterranean, established that day in Paris, covers 43 countries and regions in Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. With 26 European Union (EU) members and 17 non-EU members, it could become a powerful voice in the international community.

France proposes, the EU approves

The new organization is the brainchild of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who first proposed it during his 2007 campaign. In March 2008, European leaders approved the idea at an EU summit. Two weeks after France began its presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Union for the Mediterranean was launched.

Chinese experts on international studies provided several explanations for Sarkozy's eagerness to form the new organization. The Mediterranean region is France's top concern, especially when it comes to security strategy and geopolitics, said Shen Xiaoquan, an international studies researcher, in an article for Xinhua News Agency. To the east are the Middle East and the Gulf region, while Northern Africa is to the south. Historically, France has wielded great influence in this region. Shen stressed that France's aim is to regain that influence and become a powerful Mediterranean state once again. France and Egypt are the first states to co-chair the Union.

In addition, France now faces a higher risk of terrorist attacks, which are mainly launched by extremists from Northern Africa and Arab countries in the Middle East. By forming an alliance with these countries, France hopes to mitigate that threat, said the researcher.

Moreover, Shen pointed out that France has faced social and economic turmoil in recent years, as African immigrants fled war and poverty at home. If the Union can stabilize these African countries through regional cooperation, it may solve France's immigration woes.

France is also eyeing the ample energy and mineral resources in Northern Africa and the Middle East. A regional free trade area would assure France a steady supply of energy and raw materials. Shen said that the United States and France are fighting an invisible battle in Africa

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