Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Union for the Mediterranean

Born l'Union méditerranéenne, rebaptized l'Union pour la Méditerranée (UPM--not to be confused with UMP :)), das Ding an sich has now at last been summoned into existence with Parisian forceps and force of will. Is it a good thing? A bad thing? An indifferent thing? Only time will tell. It would be easy enough to dismiss it as the product of a fantasy of Henri Guaino, but one might have said the same thing about the European fantasy of Jean Monnet and a few others. Yet there is something compelling in the vision, as there was in the vision of Europe, if only it can be made to work (and does Europe work? the jury is perhaps still out--as Zhou Enlai said of the French Revolution, "it is too soon to know how it turned out").

In any case, Eric Le Boucher reminds us of some pertinent facts: the global economy is organizing itself in "orange slices": there is an Asian axis, a North-South-Central American axis, and a Europe-Africa-Asia Minor axis. This is not at all the clash of civilizations, the supposedly ineluctable consequence of culture, religion, and mentality, but rather the usual systole and diastole of economic growth, with a metropole and hinterland, vast demographic and geographic and wage disparities, and therefore marked differences in the relative prices of land and labor.

Both within and between these slices of the globe there are predictable and regular flows of goods, resources, people, and ideas. Europe's "South" has a population of 265 million, 1/3 of which is below the age of 15, and this population is expected to grow by a quarter over the next 25 years. The only effective way to control the northward migration of people is to encourage development in the South, to invest and to educate. If the UPM can facilitate this, it will have served a purpose long after the photographs of Syrians and Lebanese sitting down together at the same table have been forgotten (but Sarkozy deserves credit for having achieved at least this).

The UPM may not yet have a grand project, but it is at least a set of initials, un sigle that may serve to keep an image of the South vivid in the mind of the North as something other than a Quai Branly full of masks or an unstanchable source of refugees dying of thirst as they land, extenuated, on Europe's southern shores.


David in Setouchi said...

I'm still pondering if I think it's a good thing or a bad one...

-Trying to unify some countries can't be a bad thing.
-Helping the non-European countries of the Mediterranean to develop can't be a bad thing.

-It makes me sick to my stomach that Henri Guaino (aka the French Karl Rove) is behind this, and suspicious of the whole thing because of it.
-It might hinder the Union (the European one) and it doesn't really need this right now.
-What do all these countries have in common execpt being around the same sea? Not much, so why trying to unify them?

Apart from that, Art, do not worry, for most French people, the "South" (especially the Mediterranean one) is much more than art from Branly, for better or worse (colonization and its consequences) it's part of French people's everyday lives way more than in the US for instance (where it can be a very abstract thing at times).

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