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This week Euro-Mediterranean Ministers for Foreign Affairs met in Lisbon to review progress on the implementation of the Five-Year work program agreed upon at the Barcelona Summit in 2005 and outline the priorities for 2008. The Foreign Ministers discussed how to pursue this reform agenda, to bring concrete results, to further activities for the Code of Conduct on countering terrorism and the Middle East Peace Process and situation in the region.
Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who attended the ministerial meeting, said afterwards: "The Five-Year Action Plan agreed at the Barcelona Summit draws the operational map for our common endeavors. After 12 years of progressive cooperation [since the first Barcelona Summit in 1995], we need to mobilize political will, courage and determination to make a reality of the goals we set ourselves in 2005 and to achieve our joint objectives of peace, prosperity and security for the region. Partnerships are principally about people. That is why we will be discussing work in areas in which we need to make progress for the benefit of the people in the region."
The European Commission has proposed (in a Communication issued on October 17) priorities for implementation of the work program in fields such as political and security dialogue, implementation of the code of conduct on countering terrorism, civil protection, free trade, energy, transport, environment, education, strengthening the role of women in society, inter-cultural dialogue and migration and looks forward to seeing these adopted by the Ministerial meeting.
The European Commission reported at the end of the meeting that it has earmarked over â‚¬97 millions to fund regional projects in the Mediterranean under the 2007 budget. These projects are supposed to address challenges with a regional dimension and promote interstate cooperation on issues of mutual interest, thus promoting increased security, stability and prosperity. In 2007, the actions are reported to focus on disaster prevention, investment promotion, support to the private sector, intercultural dialogue, gender equality and information and communication. This funding comes on top of the bilateral cooperation that the European Commission is implementing with the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership southern Members (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territory, Syria and Tunisia. Israel, also a member of the Partnership, does not receive cooperation assistance from the European Commission).
The Program on Prevention, Reduction and Management of the Disasters of Natural and of Human Origin in Mediterranean Region (â‚¬4.4 million) aims to strengthen the level of civil protection in the Euro-Mediterranean region and to ensure the continuation of institutional cooperation between EU and Mediterranean countries.
The Program on Investment Promotion (â‚¬9m.) is supposed to support the private sector/SMEs and strengthen public-private dialogue on this area. It is hoped that it will develop mechanisms encouraging new flows of Foreign Direct Investment and will strengthen the current process of investment promotion between both sides of the Mediterranean, contributing to increase trade in the region.
The Program on Gender Equality and Civil Society (â‚¬8m.) aims to improve gender equality and particularly to strengthen the role of women in society, as well as to enable stakeholders from civil society to contribute to a more democratic debate at the national level and within the Euromed partnership, notably with the governmental institutions and the parliamentary authorities.
The Program on Dialogue between Cultures and Cultural Heritage, Euromed Heritage (â‚¬17m.), aims to strengthen and consolidate mutual understanding and dialogue between the cultures by the promotion of Mediterranean cultural heritage and the raising of public awareness. The Information and Communication Program (â‚¬12m.) will implement a communication strategy with its European Neighborhood Policy partners to raise awareness and understanding of people of the partner countries in their relationship with the EU.
The FEMIP, FacilitÃ© euro-mÃ©diterranÃ©enne d'investissement et de partenariat, (Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership Facility) (â‚¬32m.) managed by the European Investment Bank, supports the private sector and strengthens the role of the local financial sector, notably by providing capital to the private sector. Technical assistance will also be mobilized to strengthen FEMIP operations with a special focus on private sector development.
Back in 1995, the Barcelona Process, launched by Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers, formed an innovative alliance based on the principles of joint ownership, dialogue and cooperation. The priority of the Barcelona Process was to develop the regional dimension of the Partnership between Europe and the Southern Mediterranean. EU relations with the countries of the Southern Mediterranean and the Middle East are now directed by the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and the cooperation funded by the European Neighborhood Policy Instrument (ENPI) that has been launched in 2007.
The author is the head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov law firm.