The New Mediterranean Union: Seeds of a New Roman Empire?

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A media circus was in full swing as U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was greeted in the Middle East and Europe as a political superstar in late July 2008. But a potentially far more important development in that part of the world the week before garnered little attention.

On July 13, leaders of 43 countries surrounding the Mediterranean (from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East) joined together in Paris, France, to launch a new regional union—the Mediterranean Union or, as it's now officially called, the Union for the Mediterranean. "It brought together around one table for the first time dignitaries of such rival nations as Israel and Syria, Algeria and Morocco, Turkey and Greece" (Associated Press, July 13, 2008).

This was a dream come true for French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who championed the creation of the bloc upon assuming office just a little over a year before. Sarkozy chaired the meeting jointly with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak—the two serving as interim copresidents, as the union is to operate under a copresidency of north and south.

This is a stunning development, not only for the speed of the union's formation—coming just over a year after it was proposed—but for its plausible ties to end-time events foretold in the Bible.

Revitalizing an earlier process

The union goes beyond the stalled 1995 Barcelona Process (named after Barcelona, Spain, where the initiating conference was held), in which the European Union (EU) and many of its neighbors to the south and southeast formed the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership to promote regional stability and prosperity.

That partnership failed to achieve much of anything due to political apathy and lack of agreement on major issues.

Sarkozy proposed his union with grander aims—as "a means to end all hatreds, to make way for a great dream of peace and a great dream of civilization" (quoted in International Herald Tribune, July 6, 2008).

Sarkozy initially limited it to nations bordering the Mediterranean. This, in his opinion, would have given it a greater chance of success than the Barcelona Process—there being fewer parties who would have to agree on issues and more in common regionally among the partners.

The union was also meant as a way to shore up relations with Turkey, an important bridge state between Europe and the Muslim states of North Africa and the Middle East. Sarkozy had fiercely opposed Turkish membership in the EU, so this was offered as a consolation. Turkey, however, was late in coming to the party—not agreeing to the Mediterranean Union until it had assurances that this would not hamper its efforts to join the EU.

No doubt the proposed union was also meant to elevate France's status in the EU and in the world. It would revive France's old colonial ties to North Africa and the Middle East. And the absence of Germany and other EU states not bordering the Mediterranean would have put France in the driver's seat.

Pressured to compromise

Germany and other northern EU states, however, were outraged at being cut out of this bloc that would take on a European character and use European funds. After a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Sarkozy agreed to inscribe the new union within the EU framework of the Barcelona Process and include all EU member states.

He dismissed criticism, however, that he had planned the union as an exclusively French project. And he particularly thanked Merkel for her support of the project: "It made me happy to see how she defended the Union for the Mediterranean . . . That was really the German-French axis" (quoted at EurActiv.com, March 14, 2008).

To achieve wider acceptance, the initiative has been scaled back, so touchy issues like immigration have given way to projects on solar energy, marine pollution and antiterrorism coordination. But it's a start, and major issues will likely follow.

Some consider Sarkozy's plan to have faltered. But if that's so, we must wonder why so many heads of state gathered to launch the union, including Arab leaders sitting down at the same table with Israel's prime minister. This was certainly a diplomatic coup.

Return of empire foretold

Notably absent from the meeting was Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, although he sent a representative. Angry that original plans for only a few southern European and North African states were changed to include the whole EU and the Middle East, including Israel (making it, in his words, "very dangerous" for him to support), Gaddafi boycotted the meeting, saying, "We shall have another Roman Empire and imperialist design. These are imperialist maps and designs that we have already rolled up. We should not have them again" (quoted by Bruno Waterfield, "Gaddafi Attacks Sarkozy Plan for Union of the Med," The Daily Telegraph, July 10, 2008).

Indeed, you too may find that the map of this new union looks strikingly like the one in the back of your Bible of the ancient Roman Empire. That empire likewise surrounded the Mediterranean —the Romans taking pride in referring to it as Mare Nostrum, "Our Sea."

Frankly, Gaddafi in this case is exactly right. Another Roman Empire is indeed where things are headed even though most of the participants are themselves blind to it.

Bible prophecy reveals that the Roman Empire—the fourth in a succession of ancient empires—will be resurrected in the last days (see Daniel 2; 7; Revelation 13; 17). We have long seen this coming together in the increasing political integration of the European Union, which began with the Treaty of Rome in 1957. But in the past few years, integration has greatly picked up speed. And now we have a larger union encompassing the breadth of the ancient Roman Empire and then some.

Leaders of north and south also prophesied

Of further interest is the north-south copresidency of the new union. A lengthy prophecy in Daniel 11 details the historical struggle in the Middle East between powers to the north and south of the land of Israel. The "king of the South" of the end time will attack the "king of the North," the ruler of Europe who will retaliate and occupy parts of North Africa and the Middle East, including Israel (verses 40-45). While North and South here are often thought to be separate political entities entirely, they could initially be participants in some sort of union who subsequently turn against one another.

Worth considering in this regard is Gaddafi's warning that the EU blueprint for the Mediterranean will be a pretext for a new generation of terrorists. "I believe this project of the Union for the Mediterranean would increase illegal migration and terrorism and give a justification to Islamist extremists to step up jihad attacks. These extremists would explain it [the Mediterranean Union] as [a] crusade against Islam and European colonisation," he said.

"They will talk about jihad in Europe. This project is frightening. This project is dangerous. They will interpret it as a new crusade to contain Muslim forces. They will see it as a new colonialism and they will accuse the Arabs [i.e., the Arab leaders] that they are traitors, who have abandoned principles and sold out their countries" (quoted in The Daily Telegraph ).

That could lead to further European entries into Muslim areas to deal with terrorism. Thus, a bloc meant to promote cooperation and peaceful exchange could end up causing greater division and even outright war.

In any case, those who place their hope in this union to bring peace to the Middle East and even the world will be sorely disappointed. For prophecy speaks to this as well, warning us of a time of false peace to be followed by the worst period in human history.

To learn more about what the Bible says will happen in Europe and the Middle East in the years to come, be sure to read our free booklets The Middle East in Bible Prophecy and The Book of Revelation Unveiled . GN

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