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EU, Mediterranean summit launches union, agrees on projects
Updated: 2008-07-14 10:29

PARIS - A summit of European Union (EU) and Mediterranean countries concluded Sunday with the approval of six cooperation projects as well as principles of the functioning of the Union for the Mediterranean, which was officially launched at the summit.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy (C) welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (R) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 13, 2008. [Agencies]

The leaders from all 27 EU member states and 16 North African, Middle East and Western Balkan countries agreed that a summit between them will take place every two years and that their foreign ministers will meet annually.

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They approved six cooperation projects: the de-pollution of the Mediterranean, the building of maritime and coastal land highways, the fight against disasters, a solar energy program, an EU- Mediterranean university and a business development initiative.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who spearheaded the Union for the Mediterranean, boasted the summit meeting as a great success.

"It was an extraordinary gamble to bring together in the same room all the countries of Europe and the Mediterranean," he told reporters at the end of the summit.

"It was an extraordinary concept to imagine the Arab states represented at the highest level."

A 2005 summit in Barcelona, Spain under the umbrella of the so-called "Barcelona Process" failed to attract heavyweights from the Middle East. The Union for the Mediterranean was designed to build on the Barcelona Process.

Apart from national leaders, the Paris summit was also attended by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as well as representatives from half a dozen international and regional organizations. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, however, boycotted the summit.

"It is an extremely moving and important moment for me -- something that we have been dreaming about for some time and that dream has now come true," said a beaming Sarkozy.

Despite Sarkozy's optimism, much of the union remains on paper. There was no agreement on where the next summit will take place, nor on the seat of a secretariat, its financing, and the nationality of the secretary general.

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