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* Egypt’s Prime Minister Atef Obeid and his Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian counterparts Faisal Al-Fayez, Rafik Hariri, and Mohammed Naji Otari respectively, on 1 February agreed to start the construction of the 2nd phase of the Trans-Mashrak Gas Pipeline. This comes as a follow-up to the Euro-Mediterranean Meeting of Energy Ministers held in Rome last December. The first phase has seen the completion last year of a pipeline that brings Egyptian gas to Aqaba, Jordan. The 2nd phase provides for an extension to the Jordanian-Syrian border, with a branch leading to Lebanon. A further extension to Turkey and eventually to Greece is planned under the 3rd phase. In a separate development substantial progress has been recorded recently on the supply of Egyptian gas to the Palestinian Territories and Israel while studies on gas supplies to Lebanon are being finalised. In addition, the European Commission has agreed to fund feasibility studies for the Nabucco project of a Turkey to Austria gas pipeline under the Trans-European-Energy-Networks Programme. Officials in the European Commission’s Transport/Energy Directorate say the Mashrak will soon be physically linked to the enlarged EU and the Balkans through new gas pipelines strategically important in view of the diversification of gas supplies and access by the EU to the gas potential of the Middle East and the Caspian basin.

* The leaders of the ‘Geneva Initiative’ for Peace in the Middle East, former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, were received by European Commission President Romano Prodi, EU High Representative Javier Solana, and European Commissioner for External Relations, Chris Patten on 2 February in Brussels. Mr Beilin and Mr Rabbo stressed that the ‘Geneva Initiative’ had rallied the support of around 40% in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and they asked the EU for political and financial support. All three EU representatives offered the “Geneva Initiative” broad political support and made clear that they viewed it as complementary to the Quartet Road Map. President Prodi said he wanted to see concrete steps forward in the Middle East Peace Process. Mr Solana expressed his conviction that the Geneva Initiative launched last December would bring new impetus to the Peace Process. Commissioner Patten said he supported the initiative as an expression of the feeling that peace is possible, and told his visitors he would look into what support the EU would be able to provide. For further details of the meeting with Javier Solana: http://ue.eu.int/solana

* European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Günter Verheugen, is visiting Morocco on 4 and 5 February to look at ways of implementing the Wider Europe Initiative in the North African country. During meetings on 4 February with Morocco’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Benaissa, and Alternate Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation Tayeb Fassi Fihri various aspects of the EU’s new Neighbourhood Policy were discussed. The second day of Mr Verheugen’s visit features meetings with Prime Minister Driss Jettou and other members of his government. Discussions largely focus on preparations for an Action Plan aimed at furthering co-operation in fields such as Justice, notably fighting organised crime, External Relations, Transport, Energy, Environment, Industrial affairs, the Internal Market, and Standardisation of Procedures. Defining how to put in place what the Moroccan authorities call “the advanced status” between association and accession is also on the agenda.

* The European Parliament (EP) Delegation for Relations with the Mashrak countries and the Gulf States will meet on 11 February in Strasbourg, France. A file for a 14-21 February visit to Egypt by a Delegation Working group will be distributed. The EP Delegation for Relations with the Palestinian Legislative Council will meet on 12 February, also in Strasbourg. The situation in the Palestinian Territories will be discussed, with particular reference to the building of the separation fence. The Geneva Initiative is also on the agenda, as well as preparations for a visit to Strasbourg of a Delegation from the Palestinian Legislative Council scheduled for 31 March and 1 April.

* A Workshop on Tender Preparation and Tender Processes will be held from 9 to 13 February in Brussels within the MEDA funded ‘Reform of the Legal and Institutional Energy Sector Framework’ Project. The workshop aims at strengthening understanding of the use of tenders in a liberalised environment, and improving skills in the preparation and evaluation of tenders, as well as in regulation and re-negotiation. The workshop programme includes lectures and case studies on Liberalisation in the Energy Sector, Public-Private Partnership, Privatisation, as well as Tendering and Contracting. Participants will be Senior Officials in Mediterranean Partners’ Ministries.


The blueprint for an Economic Road Map complementing the Quartet’s political and security Road Map and envisioning a Free Trade Area between Israel and the future Palestinian State was presented recently in Jerusalem. The plan was drawn up by a working group dubbed the ‘Aix Group’ as it was launched in the French city of Aix-en-Provence and chaired by a Professor of Economics at Aix-Marseilles III University, Gilbert Benhayoun. The Aix Group also comprises Israeli and Palestinian academics and senior officials, as well as European Commission, World Bank and French officials, all of them acting in a personal capacity. Aix Group meetings received support from the European Commission. The Group’s vision is based on economic arrangements to be put in place for the final phase of the Quartet Road Map, seeking a convergence of Palestinian living standards with those of Israel. The Group’s recommendations include the establishment of designated border passages for Palestinian workers, with work permits being granted to individuals, not contractors, the co-ordination of indirect tax policy, and intensive bilateral economic co-operation to be facilitated by joint institutions. The transition period would be made up of a ‘rescue phase’ and the subsequent ‘re-establishment of a sound basis for economic development and growth’. Further details are available from http://www.aix-group.u-3mrs.fr.

Very positive results have been achieved by the MEDA funded Euro-Mediterranean Civil Protection Pilot Project, which held its third and last Steering Committee meeting on 28 and 29 January in Rome. Committee members noted that in spite of the difficult international environment the activities planned have been carried out to a very reasonable extent. It was noted that the three main objectives of the Project (Establishing a Euro-Mediterranean Network of civil protection services and experts; Creating a solid basis for more ambitious initiatives; and Building a partnership for ‘North-South’ and ‘South-South’ co-operation) have been fully achieved. The Steering Committee also looked at prospects for a Long Term Project which should continue the activities carried out within the Pilot Project, with a view to creating a Euro-Mediterranean Civil Protection System aiming at improving the safety of people living in the region. As the Long Term Project is forecast to take a long time to set up, the Committee expressed its support to putting in place a short/medium term bridging initiative. Mediterranean Partners and EU Member States alike expressed their willingness and readiness to be closely involved in the bridging initiative and the Long Term Project.

Draft Training Programmes on Intellectual Property Rights have to be drawn up by Mediterranean Partners by late February as a follow-up to the Training Seminar on ‘Presentation of Community Law in the field of Protection of innovation, products and services in order to promote regulatory convergence’, which was held from 26 to 30 January in Lisbon within the MEDA funded Euro-Med Market Regional Programme. The Seminar was the second in a series of eight held within the second phase of Euro-Med Market, which aims to help Mediterranean Partners prepare themselves for the future Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area. It represents a first step in the training of trainers in the field of Intellectual Property Rights and should be followed by specific bilateral and/or intraregional activities. http://www.euromedmarket.org

A Training Seminar for Trainers on ‘Customs Practices regarding the Fight against Counterfeiting’ will take place from 9 to 13 February in Paris within the MEDA funded Euro-Med Market Regional Programme. This will be the third in a series of eight Training Seminars held within the second phase of the Programme. Euro-Med Market aims to help Mediterranean Partners prepare themselves for the future Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area. http://www.euromedmarket.org .

Brussels,02 16 2004
European Union
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