In the last few months, there
have been numerous high-level meetings between NATO and the Mediterranean
Dialogue partner countries. Mostly these have taken the form of bilateral
encounters, such as visits to NATO by a delegation of women from the Jordanian
Armed Forces visiting NATO on May 20th and May 21st, or by
leading opinion leaders from Tunisia
on May 26th. The first visit to a Mediterranean Dialogue partner
country by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen took place on March 7th.
While staying in Jordan,
Mr. Rasmussen delivered a speech at a conference organized by the Jordanian
Institute of Diplomacy in cooperation with NATO's Public Diplomacy Division. He underlined the necessity to strengthen
the partnership between NATO and Jordan, and with other countries partaking in
the Mediterranean Dialogue. Rasmussen affirmed that, "at a time when our nations face many common security challenges,
we need a new level of international engagement to deal with them - a level of
engagement that stretches across frontiers, across cultures and across
religions. And I believe that NATO and our Mediterranean partners can set a
real example in strengthening that common purpose and translating it into
concrete, common action".
On the whole, Mr. Rasmussen's statement summarized the aims of the Mediterranean Dialogue. From the official engagement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Mediterranean region in the 1994, to today, these aims (primarily the search for joint and concrete action) have been adapted to the historical changes that have occurred during these years. Besides, after 9/11, various measures have been adopted to promote more regular and effective consultations, more focused activities and a tailored approach to cooperation. The decision to intensify political discussions has led to the upgrading of the Dialogue in Partnership (Istanbul Summit, June 2004). Essentially, this upgrading has been characterized by an increase of meetings at the ambassadorial level and by the organization of ad hoc meetings at the ministerial level. The results have been the intensification of the confidence-building process and the establishment of many contacts at the institutional level between NATO and the governments of the Mediterranean countries.
In order to attain the objectives embraced in the Mediterranean Dialogue, members advance the political discussion, which is characterized by a multilateral dimension, and promote practical cooperation, which is largely a bilateral dimension affair. The practical cooperation has been the most successful aspect of the corporation efforts to date. Many participating countries benefit from a series of mechanisms originally developed within the framework of the Partnership for Peace (a major program of practical bilateral cooperation between NATO and individual partner countries). The practical measures include activities in the fields of information, science and environment, civil emergency planning, crisis management, defense policy and strategy, border security, humanitarian mine action, defense reform, and consultations on terrorism and the proliferation of weapons mass destruction.
The limits of the partnership are far more apparent in the political realm. There are many obstacles to improving the dialogue on a multilateral level. One of the problems here is that the countries that are party to the Mediterranean Dialogue are actually located in two distinct geographical areas and hence have different requirements and preferences. The Maghreb countries (e.g. Algeria, Egypt) are far more preoccupied with questions of economic and civil society development. Mashrek countries, such as Jordan, however find themselves far more concerned with questions such as the Arab-Israeli peace process. Last but not least, there is considerable disagreement among NATO member states on how to approach the Mediterranean region. This is particularly true of the different opinions espoused by Americans and Europeans.
It would be in the interest of NATO to pay greater attention to the distinctions between the Maghreb and the Mashrek countries and their respective concerns. All parties to the Mediterranean Dialogue process would benefit from the identification of a common goal around which to rally. Terrorism could serve as such a focal point, considering Rasmussen's speech during his visit in Jordan. In this context, an objective to be pursued might be the greater involvement of Muslim countries in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.
- Jean-Thomas Lesueur: Towards Sustainable Security in the Maghreb Region
- Olaf Theiler: NATO Tensions No Cause for Alarm
- Ed Burke: Spain's War in Afghanistan