France, Egypt and the Union for the Mediterranean

I never really understood at the time why so many observers ridiculed French President Nicolas Sarkozy for his efforts to launch the Union for the Mediterranean. Clearly, it was an ambitious project. If the global economic crisis hadn't finished it off, the complicated politics of the region probably would have. But in light of the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, where the uprisings have been driven as much by frustrated economic aspirations as by repressed political aspirations, it's hard not to see Sarkozy's emphasis on economic development of the southern Mediterranean -- as a pre-emptive effort to prevent inflows of immigration and instability into Europe before they happen -- as anything but prescient.

Southern Europe and Northern Africa will always be "integrated," by virtue of the geographic proximity and cultural links. The question is whether that integration is planned and channeled, or chaotic and destabilizing. If anyone had seen the events of September 2008 and January 2011 coming, I'm sure they would have acted with much more urgency on the project. But the need was already there in June 2008, when Sarkozy unveiled it.

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