Med: French ambassador in Rome says UfM still useful

Several projects, hundreds of millions of euros budget

13 March, 22:04

French Ambassador Alain Le Roy French Ambassador Alain Le Roy

(ANSAmed) - ROME- While many commentators have become skeptical of the continuing usefulness of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), the initiative launched in 2008 by the French president at the time, Nicolas Sarkozy, French Ambassador to Rome Alain Le Roy strongly disagrees.

Interviewed by ANSAmed Wednesday on the fringes of the FrancoFilm Festival presentation, Le Roy said that ''France feels a sense of responsibility towards North Africa. We have a privileged relationship with Maghreb countries, as well as with Mauritania and Lebanon. We - as France - were the ones to launch the project for the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in an attempt to bring the northern and southern Mediterranean regions closer together at the economic, cultural and political levels''. France and Italy, he added, '' are the EU nations that apply the most pressure in Brussels to assist and support Mediterranean countries''. Le Roy himself took part in the creation of the UfM as the ambassador tasked with the initiative. At the Paris summit which gave the go-ahead to its establishment, representatives from over 40 nations in the area participated, including the North African leaders at that time: such as Egyptian president Mubarak and his Tunisian counterpart Ben Ali.

Since 2008 the situation has changed dramatically in the region. The Arab Spring swept away the old regimes and redrew the contours of the political situation. Nevertheless, the French ambassador said, the UfM remains a ''valid and implementable tool''. ''I recently spoke to UfM Secretary General Fathallah Sijilmassi here in Rome. There are many meetings and projects on the agenda. Of course,'' Le Roy said, ''there are political problems, but many initiatives as well - such as in the student exchange and solar energy fields. We have several projects underway, and though they may not receive much media attention, they do succeed in getting people from the northern and southern parts of the Mediterranean to meet and work together''.

Thus, the Union for the Mediterranean is still of importance.

It also enjoys a budget in the ''hundreds of millions of euros''. (ANSAmed).

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