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With the Barcelona Initiative of 1995 the European Union started a policy initiative meant to start a new relationship between all neighbours of the Mediterranean Sea. A dialogue on security policies, the establishment of a free trade area by 2010 and the strengthening of a social and political dialogue of all states of the Mediterranean region was intended.
Considering the glaring differences in development and wealth, the numerous political conflicts requiring solutions and the lack of established channels of communication and dialogue - as compared to West-East relations on the European continent - it was time to start such an initiative if the Mediterranean basin countries want to avoid intra-regional an internal conflicts which might result from huge gaps in economic and/or social development and a possible increase of migration. It is obvious that a lack of economic and social development in the states of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean will threaten the wealth of the Northern states. Therefore, it is also the responsibility and self-interest of the European Union to develop the whole area and create favourable conditions among the Southern neighbours.
Considering developments since Barcelona 1995 it speaks for itself that there were initiatives to discuss on security and to negotiate on bilateral trade agreements between the European Union and individual other states, but that the social and cultural dialogue was limited to cultural exchanges and scientific contacts and did not allow for a dialogue between civil societies and groups representing civil society.
In close cooperation the ETUC, the ICFTU, the DGB and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung organised the first Euro-Mediterranean Trade Union Conference from 12th to 16th April 1999 in Stuttgart to start a social dialogue between representative trade union organisations of the European Union and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean ba-
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sin states to discuss their views, the recent developments and the economic and social priorities and needs which are relevant to achieve the vision of the Barcelona initiative.
This first conference which is summarised here indicates that the different policy initiatives need a real social dimension and also a broader and more generous approach of the European Union if we wish to succeed in creating a Mediterranean Zone of prosperity enabling the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries to develop and the Northern states to continue to enjoy their wealth unchallenged and unthreatened. The necessity to continue this important discussion is obvious.
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | März 2000