Mediterranean trade and food: overview of European positions
The Mediterranean Sea has been, since ancient times, a place of battles and encounters, defilements and exchanges , and intense movement and circulation , where live today a plurality of civilization and identity strong , very different from each other on the cultural , political and economic aspects .
This area since the past has fuelled a growing interest on the part of different geo-economic areas and also the European Union ( EU) ; the EU , in particular, has made the Mediterranean a major player in its foreign policy , generating with countries that face a situation of interdependence of varied nature. The agricultural issue has always been one of the major topics of discussion in the reports, especially bilateral , between the EU and the countries of the region the Middle East or North Africa. Agriculture plays , in fact, a significant role in many of the Mediterranean partners both on a social level , due to the large population density in rural areas and the population actively engaged in agriculture , and economic, for the contribution that agriculture makes to the This growth in part justifies the strong structure of trade protection adopted by both parties with the imposition , for several agricultural commodities , tariff and non-tariff barriers , which constitute the main obstacle to the ambitious project to create a free exchange.
The European Union since its inception and as part of its foreign policy, has woven a dense network of relations on a multilateral level , within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO ) , bilateral or regional level and , finally, unilateral , part of a generalized system of preferences . The size of bilateral or regional agreements , while requiring a greater effort by the EU , has been , especially in recent years , a street almost obligatory , partly resulting in the stalling of multilateral negotiations within the WTO . In particular, the EU has adopted a policy strategy is increasingly oriented towards open regionalism , free -trade , likely to lead to gains in terms of competitiveness , achieve economies of scale , reduce transaction costs; regionalism which, however, is very close to what the WTO accepts as a springboard towards a multilateral free trade .
In the rich context of EU external relations, the euro -Mediterranean cooperation project is more ambitious than turning to a region where conflict and divisions have always prevailed on the principle of integration. The Mediterranean has always been an area of strategic interest to the European Economic Community (EEC) , first, and for the EU, then , not only for the physical proximity between the countries of the area, but also for trade ties colonial and between EU Member States and the former colonies .
In the last fifty years , the political and economic relations euro -Mediterranean have undergone a profound evolution characterized by a strongly fluctuating trend marked by sometimes contradictory actions away from the interests of this important geopolitical area , highlighting a disjointed approach , complex and chaotic policy in the European Region from a bilateral approach that had characterized relations with Mediterranean partners of the then EEC in the 70s and 80s in the context of global Mediterranean policy ( Pmg ) and the Mediterranean Policy ( PMR ), it goes , with the signing of Barcelona ( 1995) , a partnership of regional type , which accompanies the integration project for about a decade in order to create an area of shared prosperity . The European Neighbourhood Policy ( ENP ) , in contrast, re- introduces a high degree of bilateralism favoring the North-South relations on a bilateral differentiated . The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) , launched at the Paris Summit of 2008 at the urging of the French presidency , is the latest development in the history of the euro -Mediterranean relations , but also a further step towards bilateralism , resulting in a further deterioration of the regional dimension . This proliferation of policies was also accompanied by profound changes in the configuration geopolitical area, with a progressive loss of the centrality of the countries of North Africa and the Near East , thereby generating a strong heterogeneity in the interests of the sometimes converging , which could hinder , as happened in the past , the process of integration of euro -Mediterranean partnership.
The reasons for these changes are due , on the one hand , the policy failures of the past, due to disputes in transactions, especially in the context of the liberalization of trade, but also on technical issues and on the other to the changing configuration of the area resulting in the gradual enlargement of the EU .
In the current framework of EU relations with the countries of the UfM , you must treat separately the relations with Mediterranean partners (Algeria , Egypt, Israel , Jordan, Lebanon , Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory , Syria, Tunisia ), and those with the Western Balkan countries , candidate countries ( Croatia , Montenegro, Turkey) and potential candidate countries ( Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina).
Relations with the Mediterranean countries have developed and consolidated over the years through a system of co-operation agreements before , and association, then . In particular, there has been a change in the objectives of these agreements , initially aimed at ensuring the economic and social development in partner countries through technical cooperation and financial assistance, and then aimed at promoting an ongoing dialogue on issues of politics, security , trade, social, cultural and human , in order to forge deeper ties with partners in the area. With regard to the aspects of a commercial nature and the ambitious project of creating a single market in the Mediterranean, best known as an area of free trade agreements negotiations were characterized by a strong heterogeneity , providing for the gradual liberalization only for industrial products and a regime preferential access with the introduction of mutual concessions, for those foods.
The marked sensitivity of the agricultural food production to the impact of the free trade area , linked to the importance that the sector plays in the economies of many Mediterranean countries on the economic and employment has led , in fact, both the EU and the Mediterranean partners , to erect a protectionist articulated structure that , to date, has been a barrier to the creation of a common agricultural market . The system of concessions negotiated between the parties is , in fact, restricted to certain products “typical” obtained in the region and, in particular , fruit and vegetables , wheat and meat. In particular, the EU provides for the application to products originating in the Mediterranean partners of ad valorem and specific duties , which vary for certain products depending on the period , consistent with the trend of intra-European productions . For certain products , in addition, the mast of the rights
varies according to the specific import price according to a system of entry prices , which is just fresh fruit and vegetables . Under the agreements were negotiated , depending on the product , the total elimination of tariffs, the elimination of the ad valorem part only for products for which there is a system of entry prices , such as certain fruit and vegetables that fall within the list of sensitive products. These tariff concessions are also subject to a number of seasonal constraints of a quantitative nature and that overall EU agricultural preferences make it very similar to those that characterized the agreements of the 70s. On the southern front , the level of protection on imports of food products from the EU continues to remain high especially in Egypt , Jordan, Morocco , Syria and Turkey ; in addition, there are non-tariff barriers which ad valorem equivalents reach even 40% , which, when added to the standard tariff protection , provide a level of protection that achieves , in some cases , even 60% . The negotiations concluded led to a total elimination of customs duties or their reduction within tariff quotas and only some products , while still keeping a high level of protection for products defined as ” continental” . The recent agreement on agri-food trade agreement signed with Morocco in February 2012, was an important step in the process of profound transformation of the southern Mediterranean countries . This agreement , which was signed despite the strong disapproval expressed by the producers of Spanish, French and Italian , provides for the elimination of 55.0% of tariffs on agricultural and fishery products originating in Morocco and 70% of those in the EU , in a period of 10 years. An agreement that in some ways tends to limit the distortions in the European market by setting quotas for seasonal but also especially requiring compliance with the health standards for food products of Moroccan origin .
The analysis of the agri-food trade between the countries of the object of study , in relation to the three five-year periods examined, has allowed us to highlight both the major trading partners of the Mediterranean countries of the EU, both the changes in the structure of trade during the reporting period .
The analysis of the agri-food trade shows in an overall positive trend with an increase in the volume of trade which stood at 6.1 % per annum , linked to the positive trend in exports ( +4.8%) and imports ( +7 , 9 % ) . France is the main partner of the absorbing on average in the period 2006-10 , an amount equal to 44.5 % of trading volumes ; following , in order of importance , Italy ( 25.2%), Spain ( 20.0% ) and Greece (6.4%) . Very modest is the weight of Cyprus, Malta and Slovenia which intercept in complex with the remaining 3.9% of the volume of agri-food trade .