* The EU Council of Ministers on 18 March adopted a statement on the Middle East whereby it “expressed its deep concern about the ongoing violence and the continued loss of life, and emphasised the need to reinvigorate the Middle East Peace Process through the immediate publication and implementation of the roadmap, as endorsed by the Quartet on 20 December 2002 in Washington. In this spirit the Council welcomed President Bush’s remarks of 14 March 2003 committing himself to the implementation of the roadmap. It also welcomed the steps taken towards the appointment of a Palestinian Prime Minister. With a new Israeli government in place, this offers a fresh opportunity for necessary progress. The Iraqi crisis should not delay the peace process.”
* Senior Officials of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership responsible for Political and Security Issues will meet on 26 March in Brussels. Participants will first look at the implementation of the Valencia Action Plan as far as the 1st Chapter of Barcelona is concerned. Within Political Dialogue a memorandum on the state of play of the EU political and security dialogue with the Mediterranean Partners will be discussed, and presentations will be made by EuroMeSCo on Partnership-building measures. The state of play of the Euro-Mediterranean Assembly project is also on the agenda.
* The Euro-Mediterranean Committee of the Barcelona Process will meet on 27 March in Brussels. The Implementation of the Valencia Action Plan in the 2nd and 3rd Chapters of Barcelona will be discussed, as well as the European Commission Communication on ‘Wider Europe – Neighbourhood: A New Framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbours’. On Dialogue between cultures and civilisations the Guiding Principles and the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation will be discussed. The Committee will also assess past activities within the Partnership. In addition, the European Commission will inform participants on existing regional programmes.
* The 10th round of EU-Syria negotiations for an Association Agreement was held on 12 and 13 March in Damascus. On Justice and Home Affairs most issues were settled, and the corresponding chapter in the draft Agreement is nearly closed. Limited progress was made on the Agreement’s preamble, and on Political Dialogue. There was agreement on most articles in the Economic Co-operation chapter. Some aspects of the movement of goods were addressed, and both sides agreed that the issue would be discussed in depth in a technical meeting which could take place next month in Damascus.
* A public hearing on “Women building Bridges for Peace and Security in the Middle East” was held on 17 March in Brussels by the European Parliament Committee on Women’s Rights. Various suggestions were discussed, notably that of an International Women’s Commission playing a part in any Middle East peace negotiations. Speaking on behalf of the EU Presidency, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou promised to back proposals for such a commission.
* A high level conference on Inter-Cultural Dialogue is being held on 20 March in Brussels, on the initiative of European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Anna Diamantopoulou. The conference brings together academics and experts in Islamic and Jewish issues, as well as government representatives from around Europe. This is the 3rd and last in a series of Round Tables which have been organised by the Commission in co-operation with the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia. http://www.eumc.eu.int/ . The first two meetings dealt with the themes of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe since September 11.
* The first in a series of three thematic workshops held within the preparatory phase of the MEDA funded ‘Education and Training for Employment (ETE)’ Regional Programme is taking place on 20 and 21 March in Brussels. The meeting’s main theme is ‘ETE policy: a market-driven approach’. The ETE Programme’s aims include combating and preventing unemployment, supporting the occupational integration of young people, and increasing co-operation among Euro-Mediterranean education and training institutions.
* The 5th meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Working Group on cumulation of origin, which was scheduled to take place on 26 March has been postponed in view of the current situation in the Gulf region. No new date has yet been set.
PROGRAMMES & PROJECTS
* EU RESEARCH INTO SOCIAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CAUSES OF CONFLICT
The complex causes of conflict and possible peaceful solutions in some of the EU’s neighbouring regions, including the Middle East and Cyprus, are the focus of five EU research projects that have been launched on 14 March. The new studies will particularly look into social and psychological factors of conflict, which in most previous work have been overshadowed by analyses of political and economic tensions. The 5 projects are funded under the EU 5th Research Framework Programme, and they involve teams in 14 EU Member States, 9 Acceding and Candidate countries including Cyprus, Malta, and Turkey, as well as Israel for a budget of around € 4,280,000. In addition, the proceedings of an EU supported conference held in June 2002 on the same subject are available on the web at
* FIRST MEDITERRANEAN MARITIME HERITAGE DAYS
The raison d’être, achievements, and ambitions of the MEDA supported project called ‘La Navigation du savoir’ (Sailing the Sea of Knowledge) will be on display during the first Mediterranean Maritime Heritage Days to be held from 26 to 30 March in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France. The event is placed under the sponsorship of UNESCO’s French National Committee, and will be presided over by France’s Industry Minister and former President of the European Parliament Nicole Fontaine. A number of Round Tables will bring together maritime heritage experts from both shores of the Mediterranean to exchange information and experience on issues such as the conservation and enhancement of historic arsenals, naval and under-water archaeology, shipyards over the centuries, and Mediterranean cuisine. The Maritime Heritage Days also include exhibitions, performances, competitions, and training workshops. La Navigation du savoir is part of the Euromed Heritage II Regional Programme, and it aims at promoting maritime museums, creating a web site on Mediterranean maritime culture, and setting up a network for the conservation of the sea’s non-material heritage. Co-ordinated by the University of Malta, the project involves organisations from Algeria, Cyprus, Tunisia, France, Italy, and Spain, and receives an EU contribution of € 3 million. The Heritage Days are set to become a yearly event.
* FIRST TV PROGRAMME ON EUROPE IN ARABIC
An Arabic TV Programme called ‘EUROPA’ has been launched recently by the Lebanese NBN (National Broadcasting Network) TV channel in co-operation with the European Commission Delegation in Lebanon. ‘EUROPA’ focuses on Europe and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, and it comprises 11 monthly programmes of 90 minutes each. It is broadcast on the third Saturday of each month at 18 h 30 GMT in Lebanon, and can be viewed in other Mediterranean Partners through Arabsat3 and NilSat. Viewers can also ask questions through the web site
* SUPPORT TO TELECOMMUNICATIONS IN SYRIA
Technical assistance, training, and logistical support will be provided to the Syrian Telecommunication Establishment (STE) over 3 years within a MEDA supported programme launched recently. One aim of the programme is to improve STE’s services to the Syrian public in terms of wider coverage of fixed and mobile networks, reduction of waiting lists, improved quality, and reduced prices. The programme’s other main objective is to reinforce STE’s managerial capabilities, financial position, and competitiveness. The Telecommunication Sector Support Programme receives an EU contribution of € 10 million.
* NEWSLETTER FROM DAMASCUS
The European Commission Delegation in Syria has recently published the latest issue (No1/2003) of its newsletter. It focuses on the Greek Presidency of the EU, and preparations for the EU-Mashrak Partenariat for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), due to be held in Damascus in April.
Brussels,03 23 2003