It makes sense. As the birthplace of international trade, the Mediterranean offers an opportunity for Europe to restore its role as the natural arbitrator of the north-south divide, Israeli-Arab conflict and Islamic-Christian dialogue.

However, the Barcelona Process has not delivered its promises, the European Neighbourhood Policy is not popular and Turkey wants full EU membership. In light of the political and economic situation, the project seems ambitious.

Advertisement

However, the EU cannot ignore the challenges that the region faces: the population is booming, predicted to increase from the current 260 million to 360 million by 2025. The lack of economic development and a high unemployment rate are further incentives to illegal immigration and rocky relations between both sides of the Mediterranean.

In such challenging times, the results of FDI flows are good news. In the general context of country reforms driven by Egypt, Morocco and Syria, and the increased interest of Gulf countries in the region, FDI flows in 2007 were $59bn (4.5% of global FDI), increasing from $10bn (0.9%) in 2002.

The multitude of heterogenous states with different situations and ambitions, trading little with each other or Europe is a challenge. A reduced union focused on economic co-operation with Maghreb and Egypt is an opportunity that is taken seriously. Trade and investment rather than politics may be the way forward. And as an irony of history, the Mediterranean Union may be closer to the pragmatic and mercantile British vision of the EU.

Sébastien Delasnerie, a former journalist and director at the Invest in France agency, advises governments on branding and image in international markets.

E-mail: sdelasnerie@voila.fr