|Dutch Parliament delays approval of EuroMed agreement|
|The Dutch Parliament postponed its endorsement of the Euro-Med trade agreement with Lebanon, citing the need to examine the issue further. The agreement signed between Lebanon and the European Commission in 2002 will not become effective before 15 European MPs endorse it.
Well-informed diplomatic sources said that eight countries out of 15 had endorsed the agreement and that those countries are Germany, France, Sweden, Ireland, Britain, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The sources said Foreign Minister Jean Obeid will raise the issue in Dublin on the sidelines of the Partnership Conference for Euro-Med Dialogue that will take place on May 5.
According to the sources, European officials will focus on the need for reforms in the Middle East emanating from within rather than as the result of outside pressure.
The sources said discussions will focus on the difference between the US's Greater Middle East initiative and various European efforts.
Although Europeans stress the importance of cooperating with the US on the security level, they also aspire to cooperate with other countries such as Russia and Middle Eastern countries, according to one recent report on the European security strategy.
The report also said relations with the Middle East should be invested as "our history, geography and cultural relations make our relations with every part of the world important, not only with the Middle East, but also in Africa, Latin America and Asia."
The report highlights the dangerous presence of logistic bases for Al-Qaeda cells in Italy, Britain and Spain and called for "coordinated European work."
Beirut,05 04 2004
The Daily Star