The locus of international focus has meandered from Pipelineistan to the sunny shores of the Mediterranean, thanks to our favorite Presidential Imp, Nicolas Sarkozy. For whatever reason, the husband of Carla –Wow! – Bruni has decided that the Med is just the place to zip up the gaping seam that has for centuries kept the North of that sea in a perennial state of imperialism (be it political, economic or cultural) and the south as subluxated as Cinderella. Consider these pertinent northern rim attendees of Sarkozy’s Med Ball: Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, the Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia, Albania et all regardless of the fact that they are actually located on the Adriatic Sea) and Greece. The southern Belles include Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, while eastern and otherwise uncategorized wallflowers include Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and…drum roll, please, for the elephant in the room… Israel.
All in all there will be some 40 participants in this new union which, pragmatically for a beginner, aims mostly cheerful efforts at such targets as student exchanges, renewable energy projects and cleaning up the sea. Presumably the more nettlesome issues like immigration and terrorism will be taken up after the initial tea-party in which flags are waved and diversity is given sprightly applause. The turnout for this phase was impressive, including either heads of state or actual big-wigs (as opposed to supposed ones) from all the attendees, with the notable exception of Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, who boycotted the meeting over fears that it was naught but a resurgence of ham-handed colonialism. And who’s to say he’s wrong? It’s hard to say if he’ll show up once the gloves come off, but it’s safe to say that in the past he’s had a hard time passing up an opportunity to scrap. Whoever shows up, it’s also safe to say that after the tea party, Israel’s elephantine presence will not be politely ignored. The Mahgreb may be chock-full of dictators, but they, nevertheless, have their standards.
Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Germany wasn’t too happy about the whole Club Med thing, either. Germany, of course, has a seaside view, but it’s of the Baltic and North Seas, not the Mediterranean, so why should they care about Club Med? Well, what with Sarkozy being in charge of the rotating EU Presidency while also taking time out for an historic photo-op with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert in one hand and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the other, he’s gotten quite a bit of notice in diplomatic circles of late. The Francocentric antics of Sarkozy have put him smack dab in the middle of the lime light, perhaps leaving Merkel a bit green with the envy of a middle child tired of watching favored siblings wrest yet another round of applause from doting parents.
Nevertheless, France and Germany have patched things up to some degree, since the EU will be financing Club Med’s activities, and Germany is not only a primary dues-payer there, but an avuncular mentor of up-and-coming Turkey. Turkey, of course, can be seen to be the real impetus for France’s jump-starting the Club Med process now, after it languished in the shadows for the last 10 years. Sarkozy has been not just outspoken, but positively irascible in his opposition to EU accession for Turkey (I wonder if Bush’s nickname for Nicolas would be “Snarky Sark”? Nah.). You might say (and plenty have) that in pumping up Club Med, he’s throwing Turkey a bone to distract it from the probability that it will never join the EU –“ So quit asking!” But he’d better watch out, for he might have just jump-started the engine that will ultimately take him out in the demolition derby that is international diplomacy. Lest we forget: all of the North African members of Club Med and all of the middle Eastern ones (with the notable exception of Israel and the even more notable inclusion of Iran) are also members of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), which was established in the 50s as an antidote to imperialism, colonialism, hegemony and power bloc politics in general. With Turkey and a number of Balkan states now sporting observer status, NAM might just be on course to becoming its own power bloc in and around the shores of the azure Mediterranean, and the EU aint invited to that ball. It may be true that “you got to dance with them what brung you”, in the words of the inestimable, unsinkable and fondly remembered Molly Ivens, but not necessarily all night long.