|INSTITUTIONAL ACTIVITIES |
* MIDDLE EAST
The EU urged the Israeli government to cease all activities in the Palestinian territories, including settlement building, the construction of the separation barrier as well as the demolition of Palestinian homes. In a statement made on behalf of the EU on November 7 to the UN on the Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, the Finnish ambassador to the UN, Taisto Huimasalo, recalled the utmost importance of the full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access and called on Israel to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, in particular in Gaza. The EU expressed its support for President Abbas and called on the Palestinians to join his efforts towards national unity and the formation of a government with a political platform reflecting the Quartet principles and allowing for early engagement. It also reiterated its continuing support to Israeli and Palestinian efforts to advance the peace process.
“How can the death of civilians bring Israel security? How can it lead the Palestinians to make a political commitment to peace and dialogue?” These were the questions asked by the President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, who “firmly condemned” the Israeli military operation carried out on November 7 in Beit Hanoun, in the Gaza Strip, during which 18 people were killed and some 40 injured. “It is high time that this violence was brought to an end. It is now or never. And Europe must be involved in this process. I repeat what the European Parliament said in September: the EU must play a more active role in promoting a political solution – a role that is commensurate with its current standing in economic and security terms,” the EP President said.
EU Foreign Ministers expressed their “deep concern” over the escalating violence in Gaza and the West Bank and deplored recent Israeli military action in Gaza. In a reference to the Middle East peace process in the Conclusions of the External Relations Council, issued on November 14, the EU recognised Israel’s right to self-defence, but called for restraint. The Council urged the Palestinians to form a government of national unity, saying it would be a partner for the international community to support the re-launching of the peace process, and reiterated its intention to actively work to get the process back on track. The Council also decided to extend the EU Border Assistance Mission for the Rafah crossing point for a further six months.
The EU voted in favour of a draft UN resolution on the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people over their natural resources. Speaking on behalf of the EU, the Finnish Ambassador to the UN, Taisto Huimasalo, said, “We believe that the natural resources of any territory seized by force of arms should not be used inappropriately or illegally by the occupying power.” He was addressing the UN’s 61st Session on the “Permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.”
“The EU continues to be committed to supporting the legitimate and democratically elected Lebanese government and its efforts to stabilise the situation in the country, and to maintain its unity. In this regard, the EU fully supports the reconstruction process in the perspective of the Paris Conference in January 2007.” This was among the conclusions of the 2761st External Relations Council meeting in Brussels on November 13 and 14, during which the Council encouraged all Lebanese parties to reach consensus and to resume the process of national dialogue. The Council urged Israel to stop violations of Lebanese airspace by its Air Force and welcomed the deployment of UNIFIL troops and the Lebanese armed forces which is progressing well. It reiterated its call for the immediate release of the two abducted Israeli soldiers and called on countries in the region to refrain from any interference in Lebanon's internal affairs.
* WOMEN & EQUALITY
“I am proud to be attending the first ministerial meeting on the role of women in the Euro-med region. I hope this conference will prove to be a significant milestone on the road to women’s equality throughout the region,” said External Relations and ENP Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner on the eve of the first Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on “Strengthening the Role of Women in Society.” She added: “We need to speak out strongly about remaining problems, and regularly monitor progress. This is not a women’s campaign: gender equality is one of the main drivers of development for everyone,”
The EU and its Mediterranean partners have agreed to work within a common framework of action to strengthen the role of women in the political, civil, social, economic and cultural spheres, and to fight against discrimination. In the conclusions of the first Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on “Strengthening the Role of Women in Society,” held on 14-15 November 2006 in Istanbul, ministers agreed to adopt a holistic approach to women’s issues based on three interdependent and interlinked priorities: women’s political and civil rights; women’s social and economic rights and sustainable development; and women’s rights in the cultural sphere and the role of communications and the mass media. A follow-up Euromed Ministerial Conference to discuss issues related to the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and the progress made in the implementation of these measures will take place in 2009.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) has issued a new report entitled “Achieving Gender Equality in the Euro-Mediterranean region: Change is possible and necessary” in which it states that a strong political commitment is needed in order to achieve true gender equality in the region. The EMHRN also issued a press release on November 7 in which it asked EU and Mediterranean ministers meeting in Istanbul this month to confirm their commitment to the principle that women’s rights should be dealt with according to international human rights standards and not to “religious norms or cultural traditions.” It also urged ministers to persuade their governments to lift their reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and make gender mainstreaming an absolute priority at the national and European level.
* EU ENLARGEMENT
The Commission has adopted a strategy for the EU’s enlargement policy, which includes a special report on the Union’s integration capacity, in which it concludes that the Union must be able to maintain and deepen its own development while pursuing its enlargement agenda. The current enlargement strategy, combined with ways and means to ensure the EU’s capacity to integrate new members, forms the basis for a renewed consensus on enlargement. On November 8, the Commission also reviewed the progress achieved in each candidate and potential candidate country. As regards Turkey, it concluded that the country has continued political reforms, but the pace of the reforms has slowed during the past year. As regards Turkey’s obligation to fully implement the Ankara Protocol, the Commission will make relevant recommendations ahead of the European Council in December, if Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations.
“The current enlargement strategy – based on consolidation, conditionality and communication – must be combined with better ways and means to ensure the EU’s capacity to integrate new members,” Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said on November 8. Noting that “2006 is an important year for EU enlargement”, the Commissioner said that “The pace of the accession process depends on the results of the reforms in a candidate country: quality is more important than speed.”
The European Commission approved Turkey’s 2006 progress report for accession on November 8. The 75-page report covers relations between the two parties, political dialogue, economic criteria, Ankara’s ability to assume the obligations of membership, the judiciary, the environment and all other relevant chapters under scrutiny. To read the report:
The European Parliament Civil Liberties Committee has decided to give the go-ahead to the proposed European Return Fund, which aims to improve the management of the return of migrants to their country of origin, by providing support to Member States. The amendments adopted on November 6 were based on a compromise with Commission and Council which should mean the legislation enters force from January 2008. Three other funds covering related policy areas were also approved.
“Europe's demographic squeeze calls for greater efforts to attract economic migrants, particularly those who are highly skilled,” the European Commission President said in Strasbourg on November 14. President José Manuel Barroso added that “a European regime for labour immigration will give such migrants a secure legal status, while clarifying their obligations and rights.”Presenting the Commission's 2007 Work Programme before the European Parliament, President Barroso explained that it focused on 21 strategic initiatives. Referring to security, he said that the EC would bring forward additional measures to combat terrorism, with a particular focus on fighting terrorist propaganda and the sharing of expertise.
* EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY
The European Neighbourhood Policy’s contribution to international peace was outlined by the Commissioner for External Relations and the ENP in a speech to the World Jewish Congress Governing Board Meeting in Paris on November 12. In her address entitled “The EU’s role in tackling current international challenges,” Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said that while the ENP is not in itself a conflict prevention or settlement mechanism, it can contribute to a more positive climate for conflict settlement “through promoting democracy and regional cooperation, boosting national reform programmes and improving the socio-economic prospects of the region.” The Commissioner underlined the value of tolerance and mutual respect, saying, “We must strive constantly to improve understanding between different cultures and religions. Both within the EU – where we must continue to fight the scourge of anti-Semitism and other forms of racial and religious discrimination, from which, sadly, no part of Europe is immune – and around the world.”
The general provisions establishing the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) have now been published in the Official Journal. In Regulation (EC) No 1638/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 2006 laying down general provisions establishing a European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, the new framework for planning and delivering assistance has been approved. This Regulation constitutes one of the general instruments providing direct support for the European Union’s external policies. The ENPI will enter into force on November 29 and apply from January 1, 2007. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2006/l_310/l_31020061109en00010014.pdf
EU Foreign Ministers expressed their agreement with the Commission’s position that, for the EU to maintain its competitive global position, it must constantly strive to improve upon its policy and regulatory framework. In the Conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, issued on November 13, following the European Commission’s communication “Global Europe: Competing in the world”, ministers noted that trade policy must build upon the premise that Europe’s economic policy is linked to that of other regions of the world. They also referred to the need to address the role of barriers to trade, investment and business activity in third countries and said the global position of the EU must be taken into consideration when setting key internal policies.
* EUROMED FOREIGN MINISTERS MEETING
The eighth Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Foreign Ministers will take place in Tampere, Finland, on 27-28 November. The Conference of Foreign Ministers, which meets at 18-month intervals, will address key issues relating to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership under the chairmanship of Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja. EU Foreign Ministers and their Mediterranean counterparts (from Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunis, Turkey and the Palestinian Administration), as well as representatives from the EU institutions and observers, will review the progress made in implementing the five-year work programme adopted in November 2005 and set out guidelines for work over the coming year.
Speakers at the plenary session will tackle issues such as inter-cultural dialogue, the European Neighbourhood Policy and the related financing instrument, funding issues and working methods relating to the EuroMed partnership, and the question of how to make the partnership more transparent. The meeting will also discuss the outcome of other ministerial meetings that took place earlier this year.
PROGRAMMES & PROJECTS
* BRUSSELS SEMINAR FOR FRENCH-LANGUAGE PRESS JOURNALISTS FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN
In the framework of the “Europe for Mediterranean Journalists” project, funded by the MEDA regional Information and Communication programme, eleven journalists working for the newspapers and news agencies in Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon and Tunisia participated in a week-long seminar in Brussels on “Understanding the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)” from November 6-10. The objective of this first seminar in a cycle of five was to help the journalists comprehend the nature of the policy which, far from being a substitute for the Barcelona Process, actually aims to reinforce it. Organised so as to combine both educational and practical elements, the seminar was unconventional in its off-the-beaten-track approach. By setting up meetings and discussions with parliamentarians, employees of the European Commission and the Council, colleagues accredited in Brussels, as well as interviews with diplomats from their countries, the seminar aimed to enable the visiting journalists to form as accurate as possible a view of the ENP. The wealth of information obtained, the exchanges and the material provided, gave rise to a number of articles and agency dispatches. A vast range of subjects, transformed into articles, was the successful result of a conclusive and encouraging week. Among them was an interview with the Algerian Ambassador, Halim Benatalah, given to El Khabar and El Watan as well as to the Algerian agencies APS and AAI, in which he expressed the Algerian position on ENP which is that it is “not a priority at this time.” In an interview with the Lebanese Ambassador, Fawzi Fawaz, for “L’Orient le Jour and Sada el balad, he explained that “Lebanon needs stability in order to profit from European aid.” Turkey’s EU accession process was the subject of an article by a journalist of the Tunisian daily Le Temps in which he looked at the long way that Turkey still has to go before it can join the European Union. In their meeting with Emma Edwin, spokesperson for Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, the journalists of the Moroccan weekly La Nouvelle Tribune and the MAP agency, as well as those of the Tunisian agency TAP and the Tunisian daily Le Quotidien, all took note of the diverse nature of ENP implementation as regards each of the countries in the Mediterranean region. All of these articles will be published in the participants’ local media, thus guaranteeing the usefulness and the success of the seminar.
For more information, visit: www.eu4medjournalists.eu
* EUROMED QUALITY ANNUAL CONFERENCE
The third annual conference, on November 8-9, 2006, was attended by delegates from the Mediterranean partner countries, the European Commission, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the organisation responsible for implementing the programme managed by the EuropeAid Cooperation office of the European Commission, representatives of CENELEC, ETSI, AE and EUROMET. The objective of the conference was to report on what had been achieved during 2006 and to propose future activities. Activities during the past year included technical seminars, specialist workshops, inter-lab comparisons and on-site visits. Some 81 one-month visits were carried out to various laboratories. The three-year, €7.6 million EUROMED QUALITY programme was launched in January 2004. It has contributed to improving the quality infrastructure of MEDA enterprises, including standardization, certification, accreditation, metrology and market surveillance. Participants have stressed the importance of activities that aim at regional and South-South integration. Given that this project will contribute to creating conditions that will lead to an expansion in trade at both a European and broader international level, as well as to long-term development, the EuropeAid Cooperation Office is extending the project for another year. For further information: www.euromedquality.org
* EUROMED HERITAGE FORUM
Following the international Euromed Heritage Forum, Cultural Heritage: A Shared Responsibility for the Mediterranean, which took place in Istanbul on 27-28 October, 2006, contributions by participating speakers and press articles on the Forum are now available on the Euromed Heritage website. Two new comprehensive publications by the Euromed Heritage programme were presented at the Forum: One of these, the 124-page “Euromed Heritage 2002-2006: Activities, Achievements, Testimonials” is available on the website. The other is a CD-Rom entitled “Euromed Heritage Compendium” which may be obtained by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
During the Forum, agreement was reached on a “Strategy for the development of Euro-Mediterranean Cultural Heritage: Priorities from Mediterranean countries (2007–2013)” by representatives of the Ministers of Culture of the Mediterranean region.
* BYZANTIUM EARLY ISLAM
Fifty professionals from Cyprus, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey will undergo an intensive five-day upgrading training on Heritage Site Management, including hands-on site activities, during a 2nd Workshop in Paphos, Cyprus, on November 16-20, 2006. Organised by ETEK (the Technical Chamber of Cyprus) which is the Cypriot partner of the Byzantium Early Islam (BYZeIS) project, in cooperation with the Greek Coordinator, Elliniki Etairia, the workshop will be held at two archaeological sites located near the World Heritage Site of Paphos. It will present a multidisciplinary approach to Heritage Site Management involving all the relevant disciplines. Byzantium Early Islam (BYZeIS) is an integrated project aiming to bring to the fore the region’s Byzantine and Islamic cultural heritage and to modernise its ability to manage it intelligently through cooperation. It is part of the Euromed Heritage programme and targets historians, archaeologists, architects, conservation/restoration specialists, museum curators, librarians and archivists.
* SEMINAR ON “WHICH MEDITERRANEAN FOR 2010?”
Representatives of various European institutions will take part in a seminar entitled “Which Mediterranean for 2010?”at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels on November 27-28, 2006.
Joe Borg, Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Josep Borrell, President of the European Parliament,, Michel Delebarre, President of the Committee of the Regions, Graham Meadows, Director-General of DG Regional Policy, and Eneko Landáburu, Director-General of DG External Relations, are among the participants. The seminar will reflect on and discuss future prospects for the Mediterranean region. Organised by Arco Latino, it will focus on six topics considered as strategic for the development of the Mediterranean territories: competitiveness, sustainable development, culture, women of the Mediterranean, migration flows and relations with the countries of the southern shore.
Seminar programme: http://www.cor.europa.eu/document/activities/med_2010_fr.pdf
Brussels,11 20 2006