* The European Commission on 11 December announced a decision to provide € 13 million in additional support to vulnerable populations in the Middle East. Activities will include the provision of food, water, emergency health care, and job opportunities for vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; health care, water and sanitation services to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon; and health services for refugees from Iraq hosted in camps in Jordan and in the ‘no man’s land’ between Jordan and Iraq. The funds are directed through the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). More on http://europa.eu.int/news/index_en.htm
* The EU Council of Ministers on 8 December decided to extend until 30 June 2004 the mandate of the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, Marc Otte. Ambassador Otte, who performs his duties under the authority of EU High Representative Javier Solana, has held the post since last July.
* A ‘5 + 5’ Summit Meeting was held on 5 and 6 December in Tunis, with the participation of European Commission President Romano Prodi. The Heads of State and Government of the five Maghreb countries and five European countries (France, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain) welcomed the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy outlined by President Prodi. They particularly welcomed the fact that Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers meeting in Naples on 2-3 December “supported (in their conclusions) the implementation of policies of sub-regional integration in both the Western and Eastern Mediterranean, beginning with the three central Maghreb countries (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia)”. Mr Prodi stressed that EU involvement in Maghreb co-operation provides a genuine European value added to be obtained through the new European Neighbourhood Policy, and Maghreb countries can rely on EU support if they embark on a joint initiative. The Commission President also pointed to the need for a safe and stable Maghreb that is irreversibly committed to democratic reform. The speech delivered by President Prodi in Tunis is on line in French at http://europa.eu.int/comm/commissioners/prodi/index_en.htm
* The 12th round of EU-Syria negotiations for an Association Agreement held on 8 and 9 December in Damascus has led to a jointly agreed text at technical level on all remaining issues. That text will now have to be politically approved by all sides with a view to initialling the agreement before the end of the year, paving the way for Parliamentary ratification from all parties. There is agreement on an early entry into force of the trade chapter of the Association Agreement by means of an interim agreement. The EU has already concluded Association Agreements with all other Mediterranean Partners. More on
* The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee of donors to the Palestinian Authority (AHLC) met on 10 December in Rome. The meeting took place in the context of international efforts to support, despite the current difficult situation, the resumption of dialogue and cooperation between the parties. Donors highlighted the problems for efficient aid delivery in the Palestinian Territories, mainly due to access problems. They demanded urgently concrete action and progress on both the political and the economic front. The international donor community acknowledged that EU support to the Palestinian Authority has been very successful in advancing reform objective, in particular in the field of financial accountability. Donors have pledged to continue to respond to Palestinian needs, while recognising that financial support cannot replace political progress, and that the deadlock in the Middle East Peace Process has very negative repercussions on the humanitarian and economic situation of the Palestinian population. The meeting was attended by Italian Foreign Minister and President of the EU Council, Franco Frattini, Israel’s Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and a number of key Palestinian Ministers. European Commission Senior Officials were present, as well as representatives of various donor countries, and international organisations.
* The Task Force on Palestinian Reform, chaired by the EU, met on 11 December, also in Rome to review the status of continuing Palestinian reform efforts. It concluded by expressing its expectation that renewed commitment by all parties to advance Palestinian reforms should result in progress over the months ahead, and underscored that a favourable security and political environment would greatly enhance the prospects for achieving visible results. The Task Force expressed its continued willingness to support the Palestinian reform agenda through donor assistance and effective monitoring.
* The EU Council on 8 December approved a draft Decision on the implementation of competition rules under the EU-Morocco Association Agreement, and agreed to its adoption by the EU-Morocco Association Council. Relevant activities will include co-operation between officials in charge of competition policy on either side. The next EU-Morocco Association Council should be held in April 2004.
* European Commission Vice-President in charge of Transport and Energy, Loyola De Palacio, on 5 December provided the EU Council of Ministers with information on the Draft negotiating directives for a Co-operation Agreement with Israel on Galileo, which the Commission had just submitted. The European Commission will initiate negotiations with Israel as soon as the EU Council adopts the directives, with a view to concluding an Agreement by mid-2004. Galileo is the EU project for a Global Navigation Satellite System to be used in civil telecommunications. More info on Galileo is available from http://europa.eu.int/comm/dgs/energy_transport/galileo/index_fr.htm
* European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Günter Verheugen, is visiting Morocco on 11 December. Mr Verheugen should be received by HM King Mohammed VI. The Commissioner is meeting Prime Minister Driss Jettou, and a number of key Ministers, as well as the Ambassadors of EU Member States to Morocco. The Commissioner is also taking part in a Conference on ‘Investment, Cultures and Civilisations: Links and Impact’.
* The European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Maghreb countries and the Arab Maghreb Union will meet on 17 December in Strasbourg, France. Preparations for a visit of a Delegation working group to Morocco and Mauritania from 19 to 24 January 2004 will be discussed. Preparations for a visit of a delegation from the Libyan Parliament to Brussels on 27 January are also on the agenda. In addition, Delegation members are to adopt the report of a working group who visited Algeria in late September and early October.
* The Economic Research Forum’s 10th Annual Conference will take place from 16 to 18 December in Marrakesh. It should be formally opened by HM King Mohamed VI. Some 250 researchers, politicians, and business representatives will discuss Trade, the Labour Market, Finance and Industry, and the Environment in the Middle East and North Africa. The Conference is part-funded by the MEDA supported Euro-Mediterranean Forum of Economic Institutes (FEMISE). It will be preceded by Economic Research Forum meetings, notably a session on 15 December where country profiles on Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, prepared under the FEMISE Programme, will be presented.
PROGRAMMES & PROJECTS
* REGIONAL QUALITY PROJECT GETS UNDER WAY
Activities under the MEDA funded Regional Euro-Med Quality Project will start soon as the contract between the European Commission and the project co-ordinator, the Centre for European Standardisation (CEN), was signed on 8 December. The € 7.26 million Euro-Med Quality project is part of the Euro-Mediterranean Industrial Co-operation Programme. It aims at raising awareness in the Mediterranean Partners by reinforcing knowledge and skills within relevant Ministries, as well as improving services, and support to business. A work plan will be set up to develop EU compatible national policies, align standardisation, conformity assessment and metrology on EU practice, and raise awareness in businesses of quality requirements. Documents, best practice guides and learning material will be produced in the course of the project, whose other activities will include seminars, training of trainers, development of networking, and transfer of know-how. Euro-Med Quality will involve relevant Ministries in the Mediterranean Partners, national bodies in charge of standardisation, testing, certification, accreditation and measurement, national business support agencies, as well as CEN and its national member organisations in France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain. The project will run in four phases (awareness-raising; networking; training; and direct technical support).
* WORKSHOP CALLS FOR NATIONAL ACTION PLANS ON COMPETITION RULES
Participants in a workshop on ‘Competition Rules: State Aid and Anti-competitive Practices’ held from 1 to 3 December in Barcelona within the MEDA funded Euro-Med Market Regional Programme agreed on the need for each Mediterranean Partner to put in place an Action Plan on Competition Rules. National Action Plans will be based on an assessment of available resources, harmonisation of legislation with EU rules, the strengthening of relevant institutions in order to apply a proper competition policy, and the development of training programmes for officials in charge of competition. Draft Action Plans should be submitted as soon as possible to be implemented in the course of the 2nd phase of Euro-Med Market. The workshop was the second in a series of three meetings aimed at building on the achievements of the 1st phase to further develop co-operation. Participants were senior representatives of Ministries and National Competition Authorities, as well as representatives of the European Commission and the European Institute of Public Administration, which co-ordinates the Programme. Euro-Med Market aims to help the Mediterranean Partners prepare themselves for the future Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area. http://www.euromedmarket.org
* NEW WEB SITE IN TUNIS
The European Commission Delegation in Tunisia has a new web site. The address is http://www.deltun.cec.eu.int
Brussels,12 15 2003
European Union Redaction