NATO Mediterranean Dialogue
NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue was initiated in 1994 by the North Atlantic Council (2004 thus marked the Dialogue’s 10th anniversary). It currently involves seven non-NATO countries of the Mediterranean region: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
Origins and Objectives
The Dialogue reflects the Alliance’s view that security in Europe is closely linked to security and stability in the Mediterranean. It is an integral part of NATO's adaptation to the post-Cold War security environment, as well as an important component of the Alliance’s policy of outreach and cooperation.
The Mediterranean Dialogue's overall aim is to:
- contribute to regional security and stability
- achieve better mutual understanding
- dispel any misconceptions about NATO among Dialogue countries
The successful launch of the Mediterranean Dialogue and its subsequent development has been based upon five principles:
- The Dialogue is progressive in terms of participation and substance. Such flexibility has allowed the number of Dialogue partners to grow - witness the inclusion of Jordan in November 1995 and Algeria in March 2000 - and the content of the Dialogue to evolve over time.
- The Dialogue is primarily bilateral in structure (NATO+1). Despite the predominantly bilateral character, the Dialogue nevertheless allows for multilateral meetings on a regular basis (NATO+7).
- All Mediterranean partners are offered the same basis for cooperation activities and discussion with NATO. This non-discrimination is an essential feature of the Dialogue and has been key to its successful establishment and subsequent development. Within this non-discriminatory framework, Dialogue countries are free to choose the extent and intensity of their participation (self-differentiation), including through the establishment of Individual Cooperation Programmes (ICP).
- The Dialogue is meant to mutually reinforce and complement other international efforts such as the EU’s Barcelona Process (Euro-Mediterranean Partnership) and the OSCE’s Mediterranean Initiative.
- In principle, activities within the Dialogue take place on a self-funding basis. However, Allies agreed to consider requests for financial assistance in support of Mediterranean partners' participation in the Dialogue. A number of measures have recently been taken to facilitate cooperation, notably the revision of the Dialogue’s funding policy thus allowing to fund up to 100% of the participation costs in Dialogue’s activities and the extension of the NATO/PfP Trust Fund mechanisms to Mediterranean Dialogue countries.
The political dimension
The Mediterranean Cooperation Group (MCG), established at the Madrid Summit in July 1997 under the supervision of the North Atlantic Council (NAC), has the overall responsibility for the Mediterranean Dialogue. It meets at the level of Political Counsellors on a regular basis to discuss all matters related to the Dialogue including its further development.
Political consultations in the NATO+1 format are held on a regular basis both at Ambassadorial and working level. These discussions provide an opportunity for sharing views on a range of issues relevant to the security situation in the Mediterranean, as well as on the further development of the political and practical cooperation dimensions of the Dialogue.
Meetings in the NATO+7 format, including NAC+7 meetings, are also held on a regular basis, in particular following the NATO Ministerial meetings, Summits of Heads of State and Government, and other major NATO events. These meetings represent an opportunity for NATO’s Secretary General to brief Mediterranean Dialogue Ambassadors on the Alliance’s current agenda. Also, for the first time, an MD meeting of Foreign Ministers was organised in December 2004 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the MD. The first ever meeting of Defence Ministers was held in February 2006.
The political dimension also includes visits by NATO Senior Officials, including the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General, to Mediterranean Dialogue countries. The main purpose of these visits is to meet with the relevant host authorities and exchange views on NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, as well as to get a better appreciation of each partner's specific objectives and priorities.
The practical dimension
Measures of practical cooperation between NATO and Mediterranean Dialogue countries are laid down in an annual Work Programme which aims at building confidence through cooperation in security-related issues.
The annual Work Programme includes seminars, workshops and other practical activities in the fields of public diplomacy (information and press activities, scientific and environmental cooperation), civil emergency planning, crisis management, border security, small arms & light weapons, defence reform and defence economics, as well as consultations on terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
There is also a military dimension to the annual Work Programme which includes invitations to Dialogue countries to observe - and in some cases participate - in NATO/PfP military exercises, attend courses and other academic activities at the NATO School (SHAPE) in Oberammergau (Germany) and the NATO Defense College in Rome (Italy), and visit NATO military bodies.
The military programme also includes port visits by NATO's Standing Naval Forces, on-site train-the-trainers sessions by Mobile Training Teams, and visits by NATO experts to assess the possibilities for further cooperation in the military field.
Furthermore, NATO+7 consultation meetings on the military programme involving military representatives from NATO and the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries are held twice a year. Also, for the first time, a CHOD-level meeting was organised in November 2004. Since then, CHOD-level meetings are a regular feature of the MD.
It is also worth noting that three Mediterranean Dialogue countries - Egypt, Jordan and Morocco - have cooperated militarily with the Alliance in the NATO-led operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina (IFOR/SFOR) and Kosovo (KFOR).
State of play
Following 11 September 2001, Allies repeatedly stressed the importance of the Mediterranean Dialogue and the new level of attention that NATO as a whole was giving to it. At their Summit meeting in Prague in November 2002, NATO’s HOSG decided to substantially upgrade the political and practical dimensions of the Mediterranean Dialogue.
At their Summit meeting in Istanbul in June 2004, NATO's HOSG invited Mediterranean partners to establish a more ambitious and expanded framework for the Mediterranean Dialogue, guided by the principle of joint ownership and taking into consideration their particular interests and needs.
The aim is to contribute towards regional security and stability through stronger practical cooperation, including by enhancing the existing political dialogue, achieving interoperability, developing defence reform and contributing to the fight against terrorism.
Work on the implementation of the Istanbul decisions on the Mediterranean Dialogue is currently in progress.