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INSTITUTIONAL ACTIVITIES

* During his visit in Brussels on 20th March, Lebanon’s Council of Ministers, Fouad Siniora, exchanged views on the political situation with the Austrian Foreign Minister, Ursula Plassnik, who welcomed the Lebanese government’s consolidation efforts and called for the full implementaion of UN Security Council resolutions 1559 and 1595. In the coming months, more intensive cooperation between the European Union and Lebanon is foreseen through the Association Agreement which will enter into force in April. The first week of April (6th and 7th) also marks the start of consultations for the Lebanon European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Action Plan, which Mr Siniora discussed with Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner in the margins of the External Relations Council. The first meeting of the EU-Lebanon Association Council is scheduled on 11 April in Luxembourg and will become the main feature for the EU–Lebanon political dialogue in the future. About the results of the last interim report of the Independent Commission of Investigation into the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, the Prime Minister met with EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), Javier Solana who insisted on the fact that establishing the truth on this crime remained an essential condition for a cleansing of the political life in Lebanon. The EU currently awaits the detailed government plans for political and economic reforms in order to organize the Conference of support for Lebanon as soon as possible.

* In view of Morocco’s request for “advanced status”, closer partnership with the EU will be discussed during the visit of External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, in Rabat from 21st to 23rd March. The Commissioner said earlier that Morocco has always been a pioneer among Mediterranean countries in its relations with the EU and that is essential to start identifying the substance of a deeper bilateral relationship. The purpose of her visit is to achieve “specific results, not symbolic gestures”. Specific issues of common interest, including balanced management of the movement of persons, opening of negotiations on services and EU financial support for the National Human Development Initiative are also on the agenda.

* “EU is a reliable partner of the Palestinian people”, External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in her opening speech at the Plenary Session of the European Parliament on 15th March. She added that all future assistance to the new PA Government will be received against its position on the key principles of an end to violence, recognition of Israel and the existing agreements including the Road Map. The Plenary session aimed to discuss the Barcelona Process and the preparations of the next meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliementary Assembly. The Commissioner pointed out that notable results had been achieved during the Barcelona Summit last November. The 5-year Work Programme agreed at the Summit as well as the Code of Conduct on countering terrorism constitue an ambitious agenda which wil render the partnership more tangible, more political relevant and more operational.
http://europa.eu.int/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/06/176&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

* The payment of €64 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to help meet the urgent basic needs of the Palestinian people was launched on 20th March during a visit of External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, to Commissioner General of UNRWA, Karen Koning AbuZayd.

* Avian Influenza: Import restrictions on Israeli poultry products following confirmed outbreaks of H5N1 The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health endorsed a Commission proposal today to ban imports of live poultry, poultry meat, eggs and poultry products from Israel. Heat-treated poultry products will still be allowed to be imported, as will meat and meat products from poultry slaughtered before 15 February 2006. This decision was taken following confirmation from the Israeli authorities on 17th March of an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in two turkey farms in the Ha Darom region, and two suspected outbreaks in turkey farms in the Ha Darom and Jerusalem regions.

* Assistance in combating bird flu: European Union experts visit Egypt from 19th to 22nd March. Following the recent high-level by the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, Mr. Marcos Kyprianou, a team of four experts from the European Union will offer first hand assistance on the fight against bird flu which was officially declared in Egypt on 17th February. A rapid assessment of the situation will be made, based on discussions with officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Trade and Industry, as well as Environment. Training sessions to Egyptian officials will be organized on measures and policies implemented in the EU for avian flu containment, in particular as regards avoiding human contamination, implementing bio-security and restricting the spread of the virus.

PROGRAMMES & PROJECTS

* REGIONAL SEMINAR EURO-MED POLICE ON TERRORISM, 27TH TO 31ST MARCH 2006, BRUSSELS
This closing seminar marks the end of the contract signed in 2004 for the implementation of the regional police cooperation project, financed by MEDA and managed by EuropeAid, with the aim to support and strengthen the Euro-Mediterranean police cooperation on regional matters. Actions undertaken included the fight against terrorism, money laundering, narcotics and human trafficking, and organised and cyber criminality. The seminar which is the last of a series of fifteen, will take up the various aspect of the fight against terrorism. Case studies will present, among others, the use of new communication technologies by the terrorist groups as well as different national police techniques which were developed to counter this phenomenon. Evolution of the European legislation as regards fighting terrorism will be also exposed, and working groups will study the legislation of each country and the ways to improve international cooperation. A visit of the specialised unit of the Federal Belgian Police is also planned. For more information, please contact: anna.abariotou@cec.eu.int

* MED-ENEC KICK-OFF SYMPOSIUM IN DAMASCUS ON 27 AND 28 MARCH 2006
The objective of the MED-ENEC project “Energy Efficiency in the construction sector in the Mediterranean”, financed with 4M EUR by the regional MEDA programme, is to give a boost to energy efficiency measures and to the use of solar energy in the construction sector, in order to reduce both energy supply requirements and the ever-growing impact on the environment of air-conditioning installations. This will include increasing the knowledge of new construction and technical building equipment technologies, highlighting their interest, showing their practical feasibility, and promoting their adoption and development. About 60 participants and speakers from the MEDA region and from the EU are expected to participate to the event, including Ministries related to energy, environment and construction sector, high-level Policy Makers, Energy Agencies, Business and Municipality Associations, associations of Engineers and Architects, Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other interested business representatives. The main objectives of the Symposium are to give the MEDA countries’ representative the opportunity to reflect the upcoming challenges in the energy sector; to present and exchange national experience, success stories and lessons learnt on the policy and implementation level in the field of energy efficiency in the construction sector; to identify further needs and priorities; and to introduce the pilot projects competition.

* MEDA REGIONAL PROJECT “ANIMA”: 4TH WEBMASTERS SEMINAR IN MARSEILLE FROM 27TH TO 30TH MARCH 2006
In the framework of the MEDA regional project ‘ANIMA’, the Euromediterranean Network of Investment Promotion Agencies (IPA), this 4th IPA webmasters training seminar will approach strategic and technical issues of web development as well as a methodology to build IPA international information portal. Topics such as business network and internet trends, perspectives and interests at stake regarding information process management within enterprises, information portal building, and the ideal Euromed internet platform will be presented. The seminar further comprises exercises, interactive workshops, as well as one site visit. Representatives of 9 MEDA countries will attend the seminar (Algeria, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey). More details on this event and on the ANIMA project at http://www.animaweb.org

* 5TH EURO-MED TRADE CONFERENCE TO FOSTER TRADE AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS ACROSS THE MEDITERRANEAN ON 24TH MARCH 2006 IN MARRAKECH
Trade Ministers are expected to reinforce their commitment to the creation of an integrated Euro-Mediterranean Free trade area by 2010, one of the major goals of the Barcelona Process. The conference will be followed by the formal opening of negotiations on the liberalisation of trade in services and investment between the EU and a first group of Mediterranean countries. On this matter Commissioner Mandelson said: “The opening of services trade between the EU and the countries of the Mediterranean will benefit economic growth and stimulate investment. Launching these services negotiations is an important milestone on the road to a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area”. Alongside the liberalisation of services, Ministers will examine ways and means to reinforce south-south regional integration, strengthen regulatory convergence on industrial products, deepen agricultural liberalisation, and improve the institutional and legal framework.

* 4TH EXCHANGE ON THE PRACTICES OF PSYCHOSOCIAL ACCOMPANIMENT FOR ACTORS AND VICTIMS, 20TH – 24TH MARCH 2006
Within the framework of the Euro-Med Intermediate Programme on system of reduction and prevention of natural and man-made disasters, financed by MEDA, this exchange aims at pooling methods related to training, care for trauma casualties, and medical-psychological-social support. It also aims at increasing the degree of preparation and training of the actors of rescue and civil protection services. These are represented, among others, by those in charge of rescue operations, doctors, and medical-psychological teams. Feedback based on various disasters and in particular the Ghislenghien catastrophe in Belgium, will consider the information available to the victims; allowances and affiliation with insurance companies; coordination of the assistance; training of the stakeholders, and information on judicial enquiries. Case studies will also allow the experts from the various Mediterranean countries to exchange their respective experiences as well as to discuss various methods of support to victims and actors.

* FEMIP’S ACTION PLAN FOR MEDITERRANEAN REGION BUSINESS CLIMATE AND ENERGY DEVELOPMENT 20TH AND 21TH MARCH, VIENNA
Recommendations for the improvement of the business climate and the attraction of foreign-direct investments in the Mediterranean region and ways to develop further Mediterranean energy markets were brought forward at the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership’s (FEMIP) Experts’ Committee Meeting, which ended on 21st March. During the meeting, which was attended by some 100 senior representatives of EU and the Mediterranean Partner countries, experts placed a special emphasis on encouraging renewable energy and energy efficiency actionsé. The first session addressed how to improve the business climate in the Mediterranean region, while the second was devoted to the development of the Mediterranean energy markets, with particular focus on renewable energy. In his closing remarks, Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive, Vice-President of the EIB in charge of FEMIP, noted that: “Funds are ready to flow into viable private sector projects, as well as the energy sector. Energy issues are of a geo-political and socio-economic nature: sources are unequally distributed between countries, yet demand for energy is increasing rapidly everywhere.” He underlined that this situation represents an opportunity for cooperation, but that it also represents a major threat to stability and peace. 2006 will be a crucial year for the future of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership as the European Council is to decide on the budgetary resources for the region for 2007-2013 and to re-examine FEMIP’s future.The EU and partner countries’ Finance Ministers will have a first exchange of view on this and will consider the Experts recommendations at the FEMIP Ministerial Committee meeting in Tunis on 25 and 26 June. Further information on the outcome of the meeting can be found on http://www.eib.org/news/press/press.asp?press=3090 .

* TRAIN THE TRAINERS SEMINAR: DEVELOPMENT AND MANAGEMENT OF TRAINING PROGRAMMES AND TRAINING TECHNIQUES PROGRAMME IN LISBON, 13 – 17 MARCH 2006
This seminar was held in the context of the “Regional Training and Consultancy Programme on Public Administration for the Mediterranean Partners”, which is financed by MEDA to provide training on European affairs to Civil Servants from the Southern Mediterranean and the Middle East, while also envisaging the creation of a network of training centers in public administration between the Euro-Mediterranean Partners. It aimed at facilitating and improving the preparation and implementation of training programmes, as well as bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the field of human resources development, training within the public administration, networking and the exchange of experience.

* LAUNCHING OF THE 2006 CONTEST OF THE « SAMIR KASSIR AWARD FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS »
The first edition of the “Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press”, which will be awarded by the Delegation of the European Commission in Lebanon, with the participation of the Samir Kassir Foundation, is open to candidates.This award, intended to commemorate the commitment of the journalist and writer Samir Kassir to the Rule of Law shall be given on 2nd June 2006 in Beirut. The jury shall be composed of 9 voting members, from media and civil society, and one observer member, representative of the Delegation of the European Commission. The names of the jury members shall be communicated at the close of deliberations to be held in May 2006. The contest regulations, application forms, and details of the candidature file are available at the following websites: www.prixsamirkassir.org

Brussels,03 27 2006
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