* Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and the European Neighbourhood Policy visited the Palestinian Territories and Israel from 15 to 17 January. The main purpose of the visit was to review the situation in the Palestinian Territories in the run up to the legislative elections scheduled for 25th January and express EU support to the democratic process. The Commissioner met with Palestinian Authority (PA) Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nasser Al Kidweh, PA Presidential Adviser, Marwan Abdel Hamid, Acting Finance Minister Jihad Al Wazir, the Head of the Central Elections Commission, Hanna Nasir and several other Palestinian officials. She also met the Chief Observer for the EU Election Observation Mission, Veronique de Keyser MEP. With acting Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert and the Israeli Foreign Minister designate, Mrs Ferrero Waldner discussed bilateral relations and the MEPP. Mrs Ferrero-Waldner took the opportunity to announce a number of new financial decisions including support for the electoral process (1.4 million euros), equipment for the Rafah crossing (1.5 million euros), training and equipment for customs services (1.5 million euros), launch of over 20 million euros worth of projects under the Gaza Infrastructure Facility (€40 million) for the improvement of basic services including waste water, solid waste and electricity. Speaking of the Palestinian elections, the Commissioner stated: “The Palestinian legislative elections are an important milestone on the road to democracy and should go ahead on schedule. We welcome the decision by the Israeli cabinet to facilitate voting in East Jerusalem and look forward to agreement between the parties on arrangements for the ballots. To build confidence in these polls we are once again deploying the biggest international team of election observers. EU support to the Central Elections Commission has been crucial, and without it, the holding of these elections would not have been possible”. The Commissioner spent a day in Gaza where she visited a number of Commission financed projects and discussed ways to increase employment generation in a series of upcoming projects under the Gaza Infrastructure Facility. She also visited the Rafah border crossing and met with General Pistolese to review the operation of the Border Assistance Mission. Immediately after her trip, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner addressed the European Parliament on 19 January which has sent a 50-strong Delegation as part of the the EU Election Observation Mission to the Palestinian Territories on her visit and meetings with both Palestinian and Israelis. The speech is available at: http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/06/17&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
* At their first meeting in Brussels under the Austrian Presidency on 16-17 January, Senior Officials responsible for political and security issues and the Euromed Committee for the Barcelona Process mainly discussed the Presidency’s Work Programme for the implementation of the Five Year Work Programme adopted at the Barcelona Summit. Senior Officials discussed the proposed Euro-Med Ministerial Conference on Migration scheduled for February 2006 and the practicalities involved in terms of organisation and timing. At this meeting, the Commission made a presentation of its plans to continue the media seminars held during 2005 by the constitution of a Euro-Med Media Task Force. During the Euromed Committee meeting, a “study Committee” was established to review the Anna Lindh Foundation’s statute and future activities.
* Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the CFSP, welcomed on 15 January the announcement by Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Palestinian elections. Javier Solana welcomed the decision by the Israeli cabinet to allow voting by Palestinians in East Jerusalem and said that “the EU expects Israel to facilitate electoral operations, including movement of candidates and voting officials, as well as of local and international observers”. As he also welcomed the announcement by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the PA to hold the legislative elections as scheduled on 25 January, as well as the declared intention of the PA to ensure security of the electoral operations and safety of the voters, candidates and local and international observers. The High Representative also reiterated EU and Quartet positions that all factions, including Hamas, should renounce violence, recognise Israel’s right to exist and disarm. For the full statement, see: http://ue.eu.int/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/en/declarations/87988.pdf
* The Austrian Presidency recently issued a Declaration on Lebanon on behalf of the EU in which it welcomed the appointment of the Mr Serge Brammertz as Head of the International Investigation Commission into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri and reiterated the need for all related Security Council resolutions to be implemented and, pursuant to those resolutions, for Syria to cooperate fully and unconditionally with the Investigation Commission. In the statement, the EU reaffirms its full support to the government of Mr Fouad Siniora, encourages it to continue the dialogue initiated on the implementation of resolution 1559, fully back its intention to enter into negotiations with Syria with a view to demarcating the entire border separating the two countries. It also reaffirms its support for the holding of an international donor conference in Beirut in 2006. The full text of the Declaration can be found at the following page:
* Meetings for January and February of working groups and Committees of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA) as well as the meeting of the Delegation of the EP to the EMPA are available at the following: http://www.europarl.eu.int/intcoop/empa/home/default_en.htm
* The European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Mashreq Countries met on 18 January in Strasbourg with a Delegation of Lebanese Members of Parliament to discuss the current situation in Lebanon
* Javier Solana, High Representative for CFSP, congratulated Mrs Tzipi Livni, on her recent appointment as Foreign Minister of Israel.
PROGRAMMES & PROJECTS
* ANIMA WORKSHOP ON “BUILDING AN IPA INVESTOR TARGETING STRATEGY”, 23-27 JANUARY 2006, MARSEILLES This is the first of a two-tear regional seminar on ‘Training the Trainers” organised by ANIMA (Euro-Mediterranean Network of Investment Promotion Agencies) with the aim to provide participants with the theoretical module and support material necessary to transfer the knowledge they have gained from the Seminars to their IPA colleagues. The second workshop scheduled for for 6-10 February will look at the development of an IPA Communication Strategy. 7 MEDA countries will be represented: Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia. For more information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
* EURO-MED STATISTICAL COOPERATION – LAUNCH OF MEDSTAT II, 26-27 JANUARY 2006, LUXEMBOURG MEDSTAT II, the Euromed Regional Programme on statistical cooperation, which aims to improve the quality of services and of statistical data in the Mediterranean Partners countries, is being launched. The date for the commencement of activities has been set to 15 January and the execution period will cover 3 years. A kick-off meeting between the contractors and the EC services involved (EUROSTAT and EuropeAid, Cooperation Office of the European Commission) will take place on January 26th and 27th in Luxembourg. For more information, contact: email@example.com
Brussels,01 23 2006