The Mediterranean Dialogue was created in 1994 by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for the purpose of creating a forum between NATO alliance members and Mediterranean countries. This outreach by NATO was seen as a way of spreading democracy, similar to what NATO did in eastern European countries, and also way of forming co-operation on the war against terrorism .
- Contribute to regional security and stability
- Achieve better mutual understanding
- Dispel any misconceptions about NATO among Dialogue countries
The organization consists of seven non-NATO members, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. The original members consisted of Algeria, Maurtiania, Morocco and Tunisia. Algeria joined in 1995 and Jordon joined five years late in 2000.
The United States and other NATO members are advocating the expansion of the Mediterranean Dialogue. The Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, called on the Dialogue to be expanded to the southern Mediterranean, "Only by involving the southern countries in a common program for defense and security can we create the conditions for a stable solution and especially for a steady action against terrorism".
The Mediterranean Dialogue is a voluntary dialogue; meaning that member countries retain their sovereignty. All members meet at least twice a year to carry out consultation on military and political aspects. The Dialogue is set up to be complimentary to current operations being carried out by other organizations- such as the EU, and OSCE- in the Mediterranean region.
The Mediterranean Dialogue is primarily a bilateral structure, this allows for individual countries to work through the Dialogue with NATO. These one-on-one talks are held by the Dialogue on a regular basis in both the Ambassadorial and working level. One such instance of this could be Israel’s use of the organization to help NATO with counter-terrorism efforts. Despite it bilateral nature, the organization can also be used for militarily purposes, and allows for all seven countries and NATO to meet regularly.
Funding is allocated by members of the alliance through a self-funding basis. Allies consider request for financial assistance in support of a dialogue member’s participation. Members partners agreed to update their funding policy to accommodate their members. One such change was a revision of the Dialogue’s funding policy allowing the Dialogue to fund 100% of the participation cost of Mediterranean Dialogue countries.
The Duologue gives NATO the unique contact with Mediterranean countries militaries and governments. The annual Work Program offered by NATO to Dialogue countries, offers military and political advice. These countries can also,in some cases, participate in training exercises with NATO members. NATO also regularly sends military experts to assess further co-operation and government military standing.
Some have criticized NATO for acting inside the Arab world with the Mediterranean Dialogue, claiming that the United States and NATO members are trying to appease terrorist groups operating in some of the Dialogue countries. The New Republic wrote: “Underlying all this confusion is a major shift in Middle East policy by the U.S. government which now seeks dialogue with Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, both Islamist groups that avoid ties to Al Qaeda.” David Kaplan of U.S. News & World Report wrote that the one "strategy being pursued is to make peace with radical Muslim figures who eschew violence. At the top of the list: the Muslim Brotherhood, the pre-eminent Islamist society, founded in 1928 and now with tens of thousands of followers worldwide." NATO and the United States state that the reason for the Dialogue is to work with these countries against common threats such as terrorism.
Some government officials have been critical of the progress that the Mediterranean Duologue has had in working with member countries. Styptics warn that the Duologue may be seen by Middle East countries as a way of drawing Israel closer to NATO. They state the if this happens, anti-western tensions in the Middle East will rise. Critic's also say that NATO has lacked the willpower to send enough resources to the Duologue in order for it to operate effectively in building ties with Arab countries.
- NATO Deputy Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, February 13, 2006, at the Conference "Nato and Egypt: A Dialogue"
- Kaplan, U.S. News & World Report
- Chris Donnelly, Senior Fellow at the United Kingdom Defence Academy in Shrivenham, England, NATO Review, Spring 2004 Issue