(North Africa from Egypt to Morocco). The relation between the EU and the countries bordering the “south shore” of the Mediterranean has been a complex relationship for centuries. Historically, it has been marked by the presence of Arabs in Spain and of Spain, France and Italy in North Africa. This has resulted in powerful cultural contact and influence on both sides of the Sea. The area was involved in European conflict during the Second World War and and the Suez Crisis. Home grown conflict with Europe is most graphically shown by the effort of Algeria to free itself from French colonial domination. Finally, during the Cold War Egypt, and Libya, in particular, were sought as prizes by both the West and the Soviet Bloc. Today the Cold War has ostensibly been resolved and colonial domination is no longer a feature of the area.
Of course, this does not mean that there are no remaining conflicts between the EU and North Africa. Several of the countries are seen as fundamentally politically unstable and subject to the lure of Islamic fundamentalism and a political radicalization that could pose problems for Europe. This situation is made increasingly worrisome for Europe by the proliferation of and easy access to high technology weapons that have the potential of putting Southern Europe at risk. The errant Libyan Scud missile that landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa in 1986 made this risk all the more real. Finally, and probably most importantly, Europe is quite concerned by the prospect of a massive migration of population from North Africa to France, Italy and Spain. While some migrants have experienced a successful integration into European society, large numbers of them are confined to troubled working class districts of large cities, to social exclusion and to discrimination in all areas of life. Significantly increasing this population with new migrants could increase social tension and the political support of right-wing populist parties in several EU countries.
The response of the EU to this potentially explosive situation has been open a dialogue with the countries ranging from Morocco in the west to Syria in the east, beginning with La Conférence Euroméditerranéene in Barcelona in November 1995. At that time seven billion Euros in development assistance was committed. The objective being that of improving the economic lives of North Africans to the extent that both migration to Europe and Islamic Fundamentalism would appear to be less desirable.xli Efforts to reduce the likelihood of military conflict have been explicitly pursued since the conference sponsored by Italy and Spain through the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in 1990, with subsequent gathering through one structure or another almost every year. There was also a cooperative effort between NATO and the Soviet Union to limit the size of naval forces positioned in the Mediterranean. It is still too early to judge the success of these initiatives but the fact that then have been pursued is indicative of the importance the EU places on this relationship.
– The end of the apartheid era brought South Africa an enormous amount of attention from the industrialized world. The task of the South African government has been to convert this good will to concrete initiatives. Unfortunately this has been as difficult with regard to the EU as it has been with other regions of the “north.” South Africa has a GDP that is less than 2 per cent of that of the EU so whatever is done with market access is unlikely to have much of an aggregate impact on Europe; the problem lies in the individual sectors that would be affected by free trade between