* ASYLUM AND IMMIGRATION
In the context of the EU’s policy of improving information exchange on national asylum and immigration policies, the Council adopted a Decision on the establishment of a mutual information mechanism concerning measures that Member States take in the areas of asylum and immigration. “This mechanism will enhance trust among Member States and will facilitate, through mutual information, the adoption of coordinated approaches to resolving issues of mutual interest,” said EC Vice-President responsible for Justice and Home Affairs, Franco Frattini, during discussions on October 5. The Council also took decisions on reinforcing the EU’s southern external maritime borders as well as asylum and immigration. It invited the EC to carry out a feasibility study on the establishment of a Mediterranean coastal patrol network, in cooperation with FRONTEX. Ministers also called for the strengthening of cooperation with third countries of origin and transit in order to tackle illegal migration.
For the full text of the Council meeting’s conclusions, see: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/en/jha/91212.pdf
* EU VIEWS ON RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE
“States cannot allow the rights of certain religious communities to be undermined by extremists; only in a tolerant environment will it be possible for everyone to freely manifest his or her religion or belief,” said the Finnish EU Presidency in a statement to the latest OSCE meeting (Human Dimension Implementation Meeting: Fundamental Freedoms II, working session 13) on October 11. Noting that for the EU, the promotion of religious tolerance remains “of primordial importance,” the Presidency said: “It cannot be denied that in many of our countries Islam is nowadays often associated with violence and extremism… Our view will continue to be that it is not the religion itself which gives rise to these phenomena but the way it is abused by extremists. Our efforts to defend that view are made easier the more Muslim communities and their leaders distance themselves from the violence committed in the name of Islam.” The statement also made particular reference to the right to conscientious objection to military service, expressing disappointment at the increase in the number of cases where conscientious objectors have been punished for their attitude and stating that “The European Union urges all countries concerned to recognise the rights of conscientious objectors.”
* EUROBAROMETER REPORT ON ENP
Sixty-eight percent of Europeans tend to have a positive perception of relations with neighbouring countries and believe cooperation will bring mutual benefits according to a Eurobarometer Special Report on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) issued on October 10. Most Europeans also believe that supporting reforms in neighbouring countries will benefit the EU’s neighbours in terms of economic and social development, as well as good governance.
On migration, 64% of those polled said that close cooperation with neighbouring countries would help reduce illegal immigration into the EU.
Full details of the opinion poll are available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb_special_en.htm.
* COMBATING TERRORISM
The European Commission decided to fund fifteen new security research projects at a cost of €15 million. As part of its efforts to increase security for EU citizens, it announced its approval of eight technological projects and seven supporting activities on October 13. EC Vice-President, Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry policies, said: “The Commission is determined to do its part to better protect our citizens and fund EU wide targeted research efforts. A strong European security research programme will also enhance Europe's competitive edge in many areas.”
One project aims to improve the detection of explosives, including liquids, at airports, while another will enhance the protection of the drinking water supply against bio/chemical terrorism. Other projects include the development of an information management tool to improve security for humanitarian operations and rescue tasks in support of the EU’s external policies, interoperability and standards for border security, and new methods against money laundering and the financing of terrorist organisations.
For the full list of 8 technological projects and 7 supporting activities, see: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/06/375&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=fr”
* EXTERNAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL’S CONCLUSIONS ON THE MIDDLE EAST
EU Foreign Ministers recalled the ‘urgent need’ for a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict and underlined that the EU would actively continue its efforts to this end. In the External Affairs Council’s conclusions on the Middle East, Palestinians were called upon to join the efforts of President Abbas for national unity and to form a government with a platform reflecting the Quartet principles. On Lebanon, the Foreign Ministers reiterated the EU’s commitment to work towards implementation of UN Resolution 1701 and to help the country meet its needs.
A total of €11.181 billion will be allocated over the next seven years to support the European Neighbourhood Policy for the period 2007-2013. The regulation establishing the legal framework for the provision of assistance was approved by EU Foreign Ministers on October 17. Some 95% of the budget will be spent on country and multi-country programmes and the remaining 5% on cross-border cooperation. Implementation of the regulation begins on 1 January 2007.
* JOURNALISM PRIZE
Egyptian journalist, Samia Nkrumah, has won the 2006 Napoli-European Parliament International Prize for Journalism. The prize, now in its 13th year, was awarded by a jury from the Napoli Award Foundation, the European Parliament and several European and international newspapers. The topic of this year’s competition was "Immigration and friendship among populations." Samia Nkrumah's prizewinning article, entitled "The changing face of Italy," deals with the problems faced by various immigrant communities in Italy.
PROGRAMMES & PROJECTS
* DIALOGUE 21 : YOUTH WORKSHOP ON CULTURAL AND RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY
Forty young people from 28 Euro-Mediterranean countries gathered in Alexandria, Egypt, from 14 to 17 October 2006 for a four-day workshop to conclude their dialogue on cultural and religious diversity, human dignity and mutual respect, which started via the Internet in February. The Dialogue 21 Workshop is organised by the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures in partnership with the Euro-Med Youth Platform and the Goethe Institute in Alexandria as a follow-up activity to the six-month Youth Campaign Dialogue 21 on Mutual Respect between Cultures and Religions in the Euro-Mediterranean region.The campaign was launched in February 2006 to contain the crisis linked to the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed and also in order to strengthen dialogue and overcome cultural barriers among youth in the Euro-Mediterranean region. Almost 2,000 young people aged between 18 and 25 participated and submitted their proposals on how to overcome the crisis and asked questions of young people from other countries. The outcomes and recommendations of the workshop will be submitted to the 8th Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Foreign Ministers in Tampere, Finland in November.
* MEETING ON “MAJOR MISCONCEPTIONS IN INTERCULTURAL AND INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE”
“Major Misconceptions in Intercultural and Inter-religious Dialogue" was the topic of a meeting organised in Alexandria, Egypt by the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, in cooperation with the League of Arab States. The opening session took place on October 15 with a keynote address by Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League. The main objective of the meeting was to exchange views and examine ways and means of establishing of a functioning dialogue between cultures, as well as creating mechanisms for advancing cultural relations, particularly in the Euro-Med region, so as to help in coping with critical misunderstandings.
For more information, see: www.euromedalex.org
* EUMEDIS PROGRAMME: MEDINA PORTAL DEDICATED TO TOURISM IN THE MEDITERRANEAN REGION IS NOW ONLINE
“Cultural tourism” received a boost recently as the MEDINA Portal (www.medinaportal.net) and eight national websites (Algeria, Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia) went online. This is one of the results of the MEDINA Project, co-financed by the European Commission in the framework of the Eumedis Programme, which has successfully come to an end after four years of collaboration among 17 partners in the Mediterranean region. The website includes the Tourist Guide “A trip around the Mediterranean” and the podcast “A day in…” as well as links to the national websites. The MEDINA Project (the acronym stands for MEDiterranean by InterNet Access) started in 2002 and ended in June 2006. Its objective was to support “cultural tourism” by providing people who view their vacation mainly as a cultural experience with information about the places they intend to visit and the related aspects of the local culture, as seen in both a national perspective and a broader context. The MEDINA Portal highlights the common cultural background of the different countries, and the contributions of the different civilizations. It provides information on the shared heritage of the Mediterranean basin while each national site focuses on the cultural heritage of a specific country and provides country-specific content.
For further information related to the MEDINA Project: firstname.lastname@example.org
* CROSSING GLANCES PHOTO COMPETITION WINNERS
The 17 winning entries in the Crossing Glances Project photo competition have been announced. All are high-quality artistic photographs, capturing the daily lives, thoughts and concerns of young people in the Euro-Mediterranean region. The Crossing Glances Project, financed by the European Commission’s regional MEDA Information and Communication programme, aims to give young people from the Euro-Mediterranean region an opportunity to get to know each other through their work and to share experiences and expectations. The competition was open to anyone under 30. The international jury, comprising personalities from the media and the worlds of photography and communications, had a difficult task to select the winners from some 5,800 photographs submitted. The 17 winners have been invited to attend the opening of an exhibition with their work at the Palazzo Valentini in Rome on November 16. This will not only give them an opportunity to meet and discuss their work, experiences and thoughts but they will also take part in a round table discussion on the role of the Mediterranean region on the international stage. The exhibition will be traveling to all participating countries, together with a documentary about the 17 participants, their homelands and how they see the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. The Crossing Glances Project has an internet site in four languages (Arabic, French, English and Italian) with information on the competition, the collaborators from each country, the content, events, etc.: http://www.euromed-crossingglances.org/site/index.php
* EURO-MEDITERRANEAN NETWORKING MEETING
The Euro-Med Youth Platform will host a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on 15 - 19 November 2006, aimed at improving the networking capabilities of young people in the region. The Platform has been facilitating networking and assisting in the creation of networks for the past three years. Participants in the meeting will take stock of what has been achieved to date, analyse available networking tools and develop skills useful for their networks. In addition to young people from the EU and its MEDA partner countries, Bulgaria and Romania will be participating in Euro-Med youth cooperation for the first time. In addition to network facilitation, the main objectives of the Euro-Med Youth Platform, which was officially launched in September 2003, are bringing young people from the region together in an environment of tolerance and mutual understanding, assisting in the capacity building of their organisations, increasing participation, sharing relevant information, and exchanging best practices. Website: http://www.euromedp.org/en/home.asp
Bruxelles,10 24 2006