(Reuters) - Leaders of 43 countries from the European Union and the Mediterranean region met in Paris on Sunday for a first summit of the Union for the Mediterranean, an initiative launched by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The project is aimed at breathing new life into the existing Euro-Mediterranean partnership, known as the Barcelona process, and will create a more equal dialogue between the wealthy EU and the poorer states that line the Mediterranean.
Below are key facts about the summit and the project.
Membership of the project is open to all states that border the Mediterranean, all members of the European Union, and some others. They represent a total of nearly one billion people.
The organisers said the following countries attended: Albania, Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Britain, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, the Netherlands, the Palestinian Authority, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.
The only national leaders who were invited but did not attend were Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, a vocal critic of the project and whose country did not send an envoy at all, and the kings of Jordan and Morocco, who both said they could not come for personal reasons.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa also attended.
The summit was held on the eve of France’s national holiday at the Grand Palais, a glass-roofed hall built for the Paris Exhibition of 1900. All leaders attending were invited to the Bastille Day military parade on Monday.
The new organisation will have co-presidents from each side of the Mediterranean, initially France and Egypt, and a small secretariat, the location of which remains to be decided.
One of the main aims of the Mediterranean Union, which carries the official name “The Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean”, is to work on a series of practical projects, with each member state free to work on a project if it chooses.
These projects, outlined in an annex to the final joint declaration, are:
* De-pollution of the Mediterranean — cleaning up the sea’s waters and coastal areas, focusing on the “water and waste sector”
* Sea and land “highways” — improving connections between ports and supporting the creation of coastal motorways, possibly including a trans-Maghreb motorway linking countries on the sea’s southern shore
* Civil protection — cooperating on the prevention, preparation and response to natural and man-made disasters
* Alternative energy — exploring the feasibility of a “Mediterranean Solar Plan” to develop solar power as an energy source, and supporting research and development into energy sources other than oil and gas. Lebanon offered at the summit to host the project’s headquarters.
* Education — setting up a Euro-Mediterranean University, based in Slovenia, promoting academic mobility and joint degrees between member states’ universities. French officials frequently refer to setting up an “Erasmus of the Mediterranean”, referring to a popular EU student exchange programme.
* Mediterranean business initiative — setting up a body to help small and medium-sized companies by providing them with technical assistance and “financial instruments”, using voluntary contributions from member states.
For coverage of Sunday’s summit click on
Reporting by Francois Murphy, Mark John, Paul Taylor and Yves Clarisse in Paris