It looks like Nicolas Sarkozy will have a full house on Sunday for the launch summit of the Union for the Meditaerranean. After weeks of uncertainty about Turkey’s participation, President Abdullah Gul just announced he’d be arriving in Paris tomorrow. His visit coincides with what Turkish FM Ali Babacan called “positive signals” from the EU regarding the opening of new negotiation chapters for Turkey’s EU accession. Turkey is increasingly tying its participation in the UM — which seems more and more crucial as Turkey’s regional influence (see this and thi on PM Erdogan’s visit to Baghdad) grows — to its accession to the EU. At the moment, both processes are stages where fundamental differences can be postponed, so expect this dance of half-steps to continue for quite some time.
Update: For a great backgrounder of this weekend’s launch summit, click through to this Robert Marquand CSM piece. Among the major problems he identifies with the UM, beyond the initial intra-EU maneuvering, is the fact that many Mediterranean countries aren’t looking for a regional cooperation structure so much as bilateral ties with the EU, to say nothing of Israel’s participation. The latter, if it doesn’t sink the project, could turn out to be turning point in regional dynamics, and marks one of the more ambitious aspects of Sarkozy’s plan.