Časopis pro politiku a mezinárodní vztahy

Global Politics

Časopis pro politiku a mezinárodní vztahy

Barcelona Process: Political Background and Goals

Why is the EU interested in the export of norms to the Mediterranean? The answer to this question is quite simple and is being repeated in most of the literature on the Barcelona Process. It seems to be the migration. But is it so?

As for example Zaafrane and Mahjoub state: “The migration issue is (…) at the heart of the imposed interdependence across the Mediterranean.” (Zaafrane and Mahjoub 2000: 23) Commission communication that accompanied the launch of Barcelona Process in 1994 also made it clear: “if migration pressures are not adequately managed through a careful co-operation with the countries concerned, it is easy to predict the risk of friction to the detriment of international relations and the immigrant population itself.” (Commission 1994: 6)1

But the topic of this paper is also the background and the goals of Barcelona Process. First I will try to explain the goals of the Barcelona process, which are in my opinion merely means to the most important goal – the reduction of migration form the Southern Mediterranean countries. Then I will focus on the real means to achieve these goals, mostly on the creation of the Free Trade Zone (FTZ) between EU and its southern partners. Realizing that there is no significant connection between European norms and economic growth and consequently reduction of migration, I will be discussing in the third and the last part the export of European norms to the South as presented by Frederica Bicchi and Immanuel Wallerstein. Throughout the text I will propose three tables (Table 1, 2 and 4) concerning the outcomes of Barcelona Process. They follow according to ever deeper insight into the issue, first reflecting Barcelona declaration, then the desired outcome of reduced migration and last the reasoning of F. Bicchi and I. Wallerstein.


The goals of the Barcelona Process – means to the reduction of migration

The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is the general framework between the EU and 10 Mediterranean countries.2 “In the Barcelona declaration the Euro-Mediterranean partners established the three main objectives of the Partnership:

  1. The definition of a common area of peace and stability through the reinforcement of political and security dialogue (Political and Security Chapter).
  2. The construction of a zone of shared prosperity through an economic and financial partnership and the gradual establishment of a free trade area. (Economic and Financial Chapter).
  3. The rapprochement between peoples through a social, cultural and human partnership aimed at encouraging understanding between cultures and exchanges between civil societies (Social, Cultural and Human Chapter).” (Euro-Mediterranean Partnership overview, on-line)

The general objective of the partnership has been stated in the Barcelona declaration: “convinced that the general objective of turning the Mediterranean basin into an area of dialogue, exchange and cooperation guaranteeing peace, stability and prosperity requires a strengthening of democracy and respect for human rights, sustainable and balanced economic and social development, measures to combat poverty and promotion.” (Barcelona Declaration 1995, on-line)

It has been nicely articulated in a diagram by Zaafrane and Mahjoub:

Table 1 (Mahjoub – Zaafre 2000: 10)
Outcomes Means Mechanisms
Peace Stability Shared prosperity
Democracy Economic development Social, human and cultural development
Dialogue Exchanges Cooperation

In my opinion this table could be extended in the following manner to clarify the real desired outcomes as declared by European Commission (2004, cited in Introduction) or presented by Mahjoub and Zaafre (also cited in Introduction):

Table 2
Outcome Means Mechanisms
Reduction of emigration from South to North
Peace Democracy Dialogue
Stability Economic development Exchanges
Shared prosperity Social, human and cultural development Cooperation

Now I would like to turn my attention to the way, how to reach the goal to reduce the migration.


Economic development – the real mean

The three main objectives of the Partnership are of course interconnected, but the basic logic behind the main goal of reduction of migration is to increase the standard of living of the people in the South, so that the biggest incentive to emigrate would cease to exist.3 This is supposed to be achieved through economic development. Mahjoub and Zaafra put it again nicely in a simple table that shows the relation between means and objectives:

Table 3 (Mahjoub – Zaafre 2000: 12)
Objectives Means
To increase the pace of sustainable economic and social development Establishment of a free trade zone
To improve living conditions, increase the level of employment and reduce the development gap in the Euro-Mediterranean re­gion Fostering appropriate economic co-operation and dialogue in the domains concerned
To promote regional co-operation and integration Substantial increase in the EU financial aid to its partners

As they state later, to create a FTZ with the EU, the countries of the South must:

  1. Pursue policies based on the principles of market economy
  2. Initiate economic adjustment by:
    • modernizing economic structures,
    • promoting private sector
    • upgrading the production sector
  3. Initiate social adjustment by:
    • modernizing social structures
    • mitigating negative effects through programs aimed at neediest population
  4. Initiate institutional adjustment by:
    • setting up an institutional regulating framework favorable to market economy



These are all economic means to create FTZ. They do not cover human rights or democracy. As it is clear from the development of Asian Tigers, it is not necessary to introduce democracy to achieve high rates of growth. In fact as J. F. Helliwell points out this seems to be true for the whole world: “Aggregate evidence does not support any significant linkage between the level of democracy and subsequent economic growth.” (Helliwell 1992, on-line) Economic growth is just as possible in authoritarian regimes, as it is in democracies. Non-democratic regimes are actually very often better capable of reforming their economies since they do not have to fear the immediate threat of being removed. On the other hand, their legitimacy can be strengthened by their economic performance.4 On top of that companies do not go where democracy is flourishing, but where there is a possibility to gain profits. I propose a very simple diagram of achieving reduced migration without introducing democracy and human rights in the South:


Economic reforms ⇒ FTZ ⇒ FDIs ⇒ economic development ⇒ higher standard of living ⇒ reduced migration


Economic reforms should lead to the free trade zone which should consequently lead to increase in foreign direct investments to these countries rising the standard of living and reducing migration.

So one has to ask why is it that if our only goal is to reduce migration and that is possible through economic development of the South, the EU is trying to pressure authoritarian regimes to improve their democratic performance?

The first answer that comes to one’s mind is that capitalism and democracy simply go together. Democracies are more stable, they have independent judicial system, they attract more FDIs and it is easier to do business in a free society. Well, I think I leave this question to further research and try to see the Mediterranean Partnership from the social-constructivist point of view. This branch of international relations (IR) theory understands the reality of exporting norms in the Barcelona Process better than traditional IR theories.


Why our size fits all?

Federica Bicchi in her article Our size fits all: Normative power Europe and the Mediterranean suggests that “much of the EU’s action can be characterized as an unreflexive attempt to promote its own model because institutions tend to export institutional isomorphism as e default option.” (Bicchi 2006: 200)5 In my opinion, it is very fruitful, that somebody does research on exporting European norms. She distinguishes between Normative Power Europe and Civilizing Power Europe. In the first case Europe is behaving inclusively and reflexively, which means that it is both taking into account the norms of the partner and rationally promoting its own norms. Civilizing Power means that the EU is  not caring about norms of other states and is not behaving reflexively, which means that it is not reflecting on its goals, but rather reproducing its institutional behavior. The main evidence for this theory is the institutional behavior of Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, notably the similarities between institutional frameworks and agendas of the EU and the Euro-Med.

She proofs that officials meeting at the Euro-Med level are institutionally very similar to the meetings of the officials of the EU. She says that the “number of layers is a peculiar EU characteristic” (Bicchi 2006: 215) and therefore one can speak of “institutional isomorphism” and that the “EU has exported its own model to the EMP.” (ibid)

The same is true for the similarity in the agenda. “There is a strong similarity in the attention devoted to trade and economic affairs, infrastructure and social and environmental issues.” (Bicchi 2006: 216) Bicchi also examinated Justice and Home Affairs agenda and came to the conclusion that “the content of the rapidly evolving program closely mirrors the EU agenda.” (Bicchi 2006: 218)

Bicchi says at the end of the article that “the EU does not promote (neutral) norms, but promotes ‘Europe’ (in the form of European norms).” (Bicchi 2006: 219)6 This is the most important conclusion to which sociological institutionalism came. One should keep in mind that the promotion of European norms is happening without the intention of the institution. Nonetheless, such a behavior resembles cultural imperialism. According to Schiller, cultural imperialism includes: “the sum of the processes by which a society is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes even bribed into shaping social institutions to correspond to, or even promote, the values and structures of the dominating center of the system.” (Schiller 1976: 9) If Euro-centric and reflexive, cultural imperialism is somewhat similar to the Normative Power Europe as distinguished from Civilizing Power Europe by Bicchi. The question of cultural imperialism is well elaborated by Immanuel Wallerstein in his latest book European Universalism, therefore I will use this source to show another possible reason why the EU is exporting its norms the the South.


European Universalism

Immanuel Wallerstein criticizes “Western civilization” for considering its values to be universal. He calls this attitude European universalism. At the end of his book he is calling for universal universalism. Let me explain what exactly he criticizes and what exactly he seeks and how it relates to the topic of this paper.

Wallerstein distinguishes three different types of promoting European universalism. The first one does not concern the relations between EU and its Mediterranean partners. He criticizes the colonization of America after Columbus had discovered it for Europeans. It is not necessary for him to argue, since the arguments have been known for five centuries by now. Las Casas has been fighting against the right to intervene into the lives of aboriginals. From four arguments against which Las Casas had to argue, the fourth one is still very relevant today. Sepúlveda, Las Casas’ intellectual opponent, argued that “Spanish rule facilitated Christian evangelization by allowing Catholic priest to preach ‘without being killed by rulers and pagan priests (…)’ (…)” (Las Casas 1552: 6–8 In Wallerstein 2006: 5) Las Casas answered in the sense that “men can only be brought to Christ through their free will, never by coercion.” (ibid)

Putting it to today’s perspective Wallerstein speaks about the war on terrorism and that the “effect of the military efforts will be to bring democracy to peoples who do not now have it, and will therefore be to their long run benefit (…)” (Wallerstein 2006: 72) There is no “military effort” going on from EU towards its southern partners. However the discourse of spreading democracy and human rights for the sake of those to whom these values are exported is still present. According to Wallerstein the genuine democratic conditions “(…) must mature internally from within different countries and regions (…) outside intervention is in general counterindicated” (Wallerstein 2006: 26)

The second problem, Wallerstein sees in the European universalism is the inherent superiority towards other “oriental” cultures – the persuasion that our culture is the only modern culture and all the others have frozen on their way to modernity. Modernity as such is in European universalism naturally universal. “With the aid of the Western world, Oriental civilizations might break through the limits that their own civilization had placed on their cultural (and of course technological) possibilities.” (Wallerstein 2006: 75) This mode of thinking that Wallerstein calls Orientalism can one still find in the discourse about the “clash of civilizations.”

The third issue is about epistemology. Just like there is one universal modernity, there is also one universal epistemology that reveals the truth about the world. “The concept of a science that was outside ‘culture,’ that was in a sense more important than culture, became the last domain of justifying the legitimacy of the powerful… It presented universalism as ideologically neutral.” (Wallerstein 2006: 77)

Wallerstein then writes as he does so often about our time, which is a period of bifurcation and it is up to us to change European universalism to universal universalism. That is to a way of thinking that sees other cultures equal to our culture in every way – different, but equal and not inferior.

I find his ideas important in the context of the findings of Federica Bicchi and others about the relation between the members of Euro-Med Partnership. They are very similar, but while Wallerstein came to his conclusion through studying history and conceptualizing his World System Theory, Federica Bicchi is doing her research in the realm of social constructivism and the study of norms.

Very important seems to be the similarity in the deeper foundations of European behavior. Bicchi sees EU as unreflexive and Eurocentric at the same time. For Wallerstein Europeans and Western civilization are calling their values universal and therefore are trying to spread them. They were doing it for the last five hundred years and perception of these values as universal has become a daily discourse. Hence, one could call this egocentric Eurocentrism inherent to our culture (but not unchangeable).

Coming from this conclusion, I have to once again change the table that is supposed to show mechanisms, means and outcomes of the Barcelona Process. In this table the most important is the last column that shows the primary and not so much visible reasons behind the whole process. The first column is then referring to the last one.

Table 4
Outcome Means Mechanisms Reasons behind the Barcelona Process
Adjustment of “inferior” (oriental) culture to “superior” (occidental) culture
Democracy Dialog European Universalism (Wallerstein)
Economic development Exchanges
Social, human and cultural development Cooperation Sociological Institutionalism (Bicchi)

The problem of migration does not fit into this table and into this level of understanding of the reality. While it certainly is a growing problem the persisting way of European behavior points to deeper reasons for such a behavior. There could be a different problem and EU would be very probably behaving in a similar way – exporting its norms. Though migration might be at the heart of the Barcelona Process and its particular dynamics, its longterm and overall feature is the export of norms – either reflexive or unreflexive.


In this paper I tried to answer the question in the introduction to this article: Why is the EU interested in the export of norms to Mediterranean? At first, the answer seemed quite clear and led me to adjust Table 1 from Mahjoub and Zaafre to correspond to actual statement of European politicians. The result was presented in Table 2 where the desired outcome of the Barcelona Process was the reduction of migration.

Realizing that one can achieve economic growth and hence reduction of migration without democracy and other European norms that are mentioned in Barcelona Declaration it became unclear to me why would the EU export its norms. Frederica Bicchi and Immanuel Wallerstein proposed interesting answers each in his/her theoretical branch. Either as a result of institutional isomorphism (Bicchi) or embedded perception of one’s superiority (Wallerstein), the EU exports its norms for the sake of those norms to expand its realm of influence or even to absorb other cultures (Table 4).

With such a conclusion I can only agree with Immanuel Wallerstein in his search for new epistemology that would uncover such tendencies of presenting particular as universal. The work of F. Bicchi is a step in the right direction.



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Autor studuje Mezinárodní vztahy a evropská studia na FSS MU a je
redaktorem Global Politics.

Poznámky pod čarou

  1. “There has been a significant increase in the number of migrants coming into the EU-25 in recent years. Net migration in the EU-25 increased from 590 000 persons in 1994 to 1.85 million by 2004. It is likely that these figures are under-estimates of the true extent of migration flows between countries, as they do not include clandestine migration (such as illegal immigrants or human trafficking” (Europe in figures Eurostat yearbook 2006–07: 75)
  2. Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. Lybia has observer status since 1999. (Euro-Mediterranean Partnership overview, on-line)
  3. Of course there are other incentives that influence a decision of a migrant to emigrate. For example friends and relatives have a strong impact, but this so-called friends and relatives effect is only secondary and “should not be viewed as some alternative to the economic model of immigration.” (Hatton – Williamson 2002, on-line)
  4. Muthiah Alagappa in his Anatomy of legitimacy considers the economic performance to be one of the factors that determine the legitimacy of a regime. As he states performance is less important in well-estabilished democratic regimes, however “effective performance can be deployed to generate moral authority.” (Alagappa 1995: 22)
  5. There are also other sources that come up with similar conclusions about exporting European norms. From the literature that I had access to, it was The emerging Euro-Mediterranean system from Dimitris Xenakis and Dimitris Chryssochoou an article The Barcelona Process: Some Lessons from Helsinki from Dimitris Xenakis. Xenakis and Chryssochoou conceptualize Euro-Mediterranean governance as a regime. They start from Keohane’s defi­nition of an international regime, which is: “institutions with explicit rules, agreed upon governments that pertain to particular sets of issues in international relations.” (Keohane 1989: 4) According to the authors EMP is  “a nascent and multidimensional regime that aims at establishing links between political (security), economic (MEFTA) and socio-cultural (human rights and civil societies) areas. The core claim here is that states obey the rules embodied in international regimes because of the functional benefits the latter provide.” (Xenakis – Chryssochoou 2001: 107) However, as they state later: “Although the EMP offers some general rules, it remains weak in relation to the development of an identifiable set of norms.” (Xenakis – Chryssochoou 2001: 108) Xenakis also compares the Barcelona Process with the Helsinki Process. “The Barcelona Process has a structural resemblance to the normative foundation introduced by the 1975 Helsinki Final Act (…) the fact that the normative implications of the basket-based arrangements in the case of the HP served as a means of overcoming the bipolar Cold War confrontation, in the BP they have to serve as a comprehensive framework of overcoming the potentially significant obstacles toward substantive regional cooperation.” (Xenakis 1998)
  6. Xenakis and Chryssochoou come to a similar conclusion. First they agree with Jünemann, that “the Barcelona concept aims at careful westernization of the Mediterranean, gradually converting it into an area of economic and political influence.” (Jünemann (without a year): 383 In Xenakis – Chryssochoou 2001: 105)  They continue: “Regarding the commitment to democracy and human rights, it seems that some non-EU partners will at some stage face the reality that the other participants, European or not, will actually insist on the preservation of the principles and norms agreed in Barcelona. But although the political conditionality underlying the economic and financial partnership allows the EU to suspend its commitments in cases of failure concerning democracy or respect of human rights, offering an apparently effective instrument to influence the process of democratization (…) it exposes the MPCs to the good will of the Europeans, thus offending their demand for equal partnership.” (i­bid)
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Tomáš Profant
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24. 2. 2008