NICOLAS Sarkozy's bright ideas have fared no better in the international arena than on the domestic front in France. Last year, soon after his election as President, he proposed a new Union of the Mediterranean which would bring together EU and non-EU countries with a Mediterranean coastline.

Other EU countries did not like the idea for a number of reasons - among them that they suspected it was in part a dodge to offer Turkey some sort of association with the EU short of full membership, which France opposes strongly. They also pointed out that the so-called Barcelona Process has for 13 years been fulfilling many of the functions envisaged for the proposed Union.

The proposal was remitted to the EU Commission in Brussels which this week has launched something to be called “Barcelona Process-Union of the Mediterranean” (BAPUM?) which would embrace all 27 members of the EU and 17 other countries from around the Mediterranean, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Commission thinks that this new organisation should be established in mid-July by which time France will be holding the Presidency of the EU. A statement from the French government said that it was delighted with the speed with which the Commission had developed the plan but added, “A deeper examination of the proposals must now be made”.

In reality the Commission has sidelined President Sarkozy's much more ambitious project by upgrading the existing Barcelona Process.