|* EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY|
Ways in which the EU can help European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) partners who are willing to reform to do this faster and better, and incentives to convince those who are still hesitant, were set out in a Communication announced in Brussels on December 4. The new proposals, aimed at strengthening and further developing the ENP, were outlined at a press conference by the Commissioner for External Relations and ENP, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. They were accompanied by progress reports on the Neighbourhood partners whose ENP Action Plans began to be implemented in 2005. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: “This new Communication offers attractive incentives to our Neighbourhood partners. It will bring the Neighbourhood Policy into sharper focus, concentrating on key areas of mutual interest like people to people contacts, deepening trade relations, stronger co-operation on energy, migration and visa issues as well as financial support. An important contribution will be a new Neighbourhood Investment Fund…”
EU Foreign Ministers believe significant progress has taken place in the first 18 months of implementation of the first seven ENP Action Plans, according to the Conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council that began its deliberations on December 11. The Council welcomed the Commission’s proposal on “Strengthening the ENP” and invited future Presidencies to take the work forward.
* MIDDLE EAST
On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people (November 29), the European Union reaffirmed its commitment to the two-State solution, as laid out in the Roadmap and agreed between the parties resulting in a viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent Palestinian state existing side by side with Israel in peace and security. In a statement issued in New York, the European Union reiterated its intention to actively contribute to the work of the Quartet to get the Middle East Peace Process urgently back on track in order to make progress towards a comprehensive settlement on the basis of the Roadmap, relevant UNSC resolutions and the commitments made at Sharm el-Sheikh in 2005. “This should be done in close cooperation with Arab partners. The international community must provide its full support to the parties in this respect,” the EU statement said.
“There is a common misperception that the European Union has imposed sanctions on the Palestinian people since the victory of Hamas in January’s elections. This is completely untrue. In fact, the EU will contribute more to the Palestinians this year than in any other year, and our collective assistance to the Palestinians in 2006 already exceeds €650 million.” The above extract from an article written by the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, for The Palestine Times, was published in the newspaper’s November 30 edition. The HR CFSP noted how the Palestinian people have endured a great deal over the years. “We are determined that their sacrifices should not be in vain,” he wrote. “Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve the chance to achieve a just and durable peace. The European Union is committed to supporting them.”
EU Foreign Ministers agreed with a proposal by External Relations and ENP Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner to extend the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) for aid to the Palestinian people for another three months. The TIM was established in June 2006 following the endorsement by the European Council. TIM support was provided for the uninterrupted supply of public utility services, namely through fuel deliveries for hospitals and clinics as well as for water and waste water infrastructure following the bombing of the Gaza Power Plant end-June. The TIM disbursed over €88.0 million in social allowances to 71,000 public sector employees and pensioners with low incomes. Beneficiaries of these allowances have not been paid regularly by the Palestinian Authority since February 2006. This payment was made with contributions from Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxemburg, Malta, Norway, the United Kingdom, and from the European Commission. Furthermore, over €23.7 million was directly paid to 73,000 poor and vulnerable Palestinians. Such social hardship cases include female-headed poor households, unemployed women, widows, orphans, disabled and handicapped persons, elderly people in need, as well as farmers, daily wage earners, and bedouins. Since June the Temporary International Mechanism has made over 400,000 payments of social allowances to 144,000 beneficiaries. Given an average family size of six persons, 864,000 people benefited from this support. In 2006, the European Union and its Member States disbursed and committed €651 million to the Palestinians, an increase of 27% compared to 2005. Foreign Ministers’ conclusions: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/gena/92123.pdf
The EC presented two Communications on migration, one reinforcing the framework for developing a comprehensive European migration policy and the second covering maritime border management. "The Communications issued today reinforce the EU's global approach to migration and propose new and concrete initiatives to better manage migration,” said Vice-President Franco Frattini, Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, on November 30. “We must do so together with neighbouring countries, especially with African States, ensuring we have a united approach to migration and development policies which provide attractive options in people's home countries and reduce the desire for migration,” he said, adding, “We must fight illegal immigration and trafficking of human beings, not least of all to prevent the terrible exploitation and loss of life which so often results."
* EURO-MED TRADE
“Our Mediterranean partners are more than just trade partners; you are also valued political partners in the search for common solutions to more general common challenges that we face,” said Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel, responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development, in a speech on “EU-Mediterranean agricultural trade relationship in Cairo on December 2”. She outlined efforts to strengthen agricultural trade relationships and foster sustainable rural development around the Mediterranean: “The EU is strongly committed to these efforts,” she said. While admitting that “There are clear signs that some feel frustration at the pace of development of that relationship in commercial terms,” the Commissioner recalled three key principles that underpin the goals set within the Euro-Mediterranean relationship. The first is that trade can be a powerful engine for creating wealth, the second principle states that trade should not necessarily be liberalised overnight and the third that open markets alone will not achieve everything wanted for farmers, food producers and rural areas.
* EU SUPPORT FOR DEMOCRACY
Of the estimated $2 billion spent annually on democracy-related aid projects worldwide, approximately half is spent by the EU while the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights devotes approximately €120 million a year to complementing the work of the EU’s geographic programmes in the area of human rights and democratisation. These statistics were cited during an address by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, to a conference entitled “Democracy Promotion: The European Way” organised in Brussels by the European Parliament’s Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. “We know democracy cannot be imposed from outside; our responsibility is to support and encourage the forces of reform,” the Commissioner said, noting that the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) provides a framework for promoting democracy and economic development in the countries around the borders of an expanded EU. “As countries strengthen the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights, and promote market-oriented economic reforms, we offer a share in the EU’s single market, closer cooperation on energy and transport links, and a chance to participate in the EU’s internal programmes.”
* HUMAN RIGHTS
The European Parliament has adopted a report on the legislative proposal aimed at updating the EU's financial mechanism for supporting human rights and democracy around the world. The report on the Financing Instrument, was adopted by a show of hands and with amendments. The European Commission had presented a proposal for a Financial Instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights in July, but MEPs wanted to adjust its aims and scope. This is the only instrument which allows funds to be allocated direct to civil society organisations without the agreement of the government of the third country concerned.
* EU-MOROCCO AGREEMENTS
Two new agreements were signed between the EU and Morocco on December 12. One, on aviation, replaces all bilateral aviation agreements between the Member States and Morocco, not only opens up markets but is also designed to approximate the legislation of the two parties. The agreement is expected to stimulate the growth of traffic to Morocco and new, more varied scheduled services have already been announced. The other agreement, for cooperation on the European satellite radio navigation programme GALILEO, covers joint activities in the field of scientific research and training, industrial cooperation, trade and market development, standards, certification and regulatory measures.
Euro-Mediterranean Ministers of Environment recently endorsed the timetable for the Horizon 2020 initiative for de-pollution of the Mediterranean Sea by 2020. The Ministers and other heads of delegation participating in the 3rd Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on the Environment held in Cairo on 20 November 2006 invited the European Commission to coordinate the partnership of the Horizon 2020 initiative through the establishment of an efficient institutional steering mechanism with key representatives from the Euro?Mediterranean governments and other partners to provide overall guidance, review, monitoring and effectively coordinate with other related initiatives in particular the Strategic Action Programme to address pollution from land?based activities (SAP MED).
Conference conclusions: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/enlarg/med/pdf/cairo_declaration_en.pdf
PROGRAMMES & PROJECTS
* EUROMED HERITAGE JOURNALISTIC AWARD
The media play an important role in safeguarding and promoting cultural heritage, with well-written press articles capable of instigating public involvement, the modification of legislation and fundraising activities. The Euromed Heritage Journalistic Award contributes to raising awareness on cultural heritage in the Mediterranean region by encouraging high quality reporting. The competition for the third EuroMed Heritage Journalistic Award has just been announced. This international press competition, dealing with the preservation and promotion of cultural heritage and open to journalists from the EU and its Mediterranean partners, is organised by the European Commission, via the Regional Management and Support Unit (RMSU) of the Euromed Heritage Programme, in collaboration with UNESCO, the International Federation of Journalists and with the special participation of the Mediterranean press agency AnsaMed. Journalists interested in culture are invited to submit articles to: Regional Management and Support Unit - Euromed Heritage, ICCD Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione, via di San Michele, 18 00153 Rome, Italy. The deadline for submissions is March 31, 2007. Rules and regulations for the 2007 Award are available at www.euromedheritage.net/award Further information on the Euromed Heritage Programme can be found at: www.euromedheritage.net
* EUROMED HERITAGE: PRODECOM PROJECT UNVEILS NEW CD AND BOOK
The PRODECOM (Product-Development-Communication) project of the Euromed Heritage (MEDA) programme recently issued an educational CD-ROM entitled “Motifs from Here and There” ("Motifs d'ici et d'ailleurs") and a two-volume book on “From Tradition to Design” ("De la Tradition au Design"). The CD-ROM in four languages (French, Arabic, Turkish and Greek) is aimed at schoolteachers, educationists and trainers in the countries of Europe and the Mediterranean. The purpose of this educational tool is to contribute to making young people sensitive to the heritage value of traditional craft industries, to show them that traditional hand-crafted items have more than a strictly commercial value and can perpetuate precious know-how, transmit memories from several centuries in history and, moreover, are the product of an economically viable and socially constructive activity. The CD-ROM is divided into four sections: “Handicrafts, a living heritage”; “Mediterranean motifs as cultural symbols”; “How to reproduce traditional motifs”; and “Design your own motifs.” The book “From Tradition to Design”, also available in the four languages of the PRODECOM project (French, Arabic, Turkish and Greek), is intended as an information and sensitising tool on the principles of an integrated approach to handicrafts and, at the same time, a contribution to the sustainable development and preservation of cultural heritage. It comprises two volumes entitled “Handicrafts and sustainable development: an integrated approach” and “Handicrafts: institutional framework, development and civil society actions” respectively. These two publications are available from the Chamber of Mediterranean Fine Arts, 59, rue Cambronne, 75015 Paris (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) and from PRODECOM project partners.
For more information: http://www.chbeauxarts-prodecom.org/
* EURO-MED YOUTH PROGRAMME
The European Commission and the Government of Israel have signed a financing agreement under which the European Union will provide the Government of Israel with €400,000 over a period of three years to allow Israeli youth to participate in the activities of the Euro-Mediterranean Youth Programme, Phase III. The European Union's support will enable young people from Israel to participate in youth exchanges with counterparts from the European Union and its Mediterranean Partners in the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Barcelona Process). The financing agreement was signed by Ambassador Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to the State of Israel. Arthur Evron, Deputy Director in Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department for Culture and Science and Yigal Tsarfati, Director of the Education Ministry's Foreign Relations Department, signed on behalf of Israel. Delegation website: http://www.eu-del.org.il/
* ANNA LINDH FOUNDATION/COPEAM
The Anna Lindh Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Permanent Conference of the Mediterranean Audiovisual Operators (COPEAM) in the context of both organisations’ interest in fostering relationships within the framework of the EUROMED Partnership. The agreement concerns international activities involving journalists and other audiovisual professionals from the countries of the EUROMED Region; preparation of the European Year for the Dialogue between Cultures (2008); exchanges and best practices in the Mediterranean area, the promotion of joint initiatives among the main audiovisual operators of the Mediterranean Region; and projects on women as promoters of Intercultural Dialogue in the Media.. For further information, http://www.euromedalex.org/En/News/3dec2006.htm
Brussels,12 26 2006