The European Investment Bank on 25 November announced it was making available more than € 60 million to Orascom Construction Industries (OCI), a leading private Egyptian group, for building and operating a new cement works near M'Sila, 240 km south-west of Algiers.
The cement works, scheduled for commissioning by 2004, will be operated by OCI's Algerian subsidiary, the Algerian Cement Company (ACC). The new venture will create some 400 highly skilled jobs locally, exploiting local raw materials, and replacing imports. The EIB finance comprises both an indirect € 6 million equity participation from risk capital in the company, and a loan for $ 55 million. The project constitutes the first private sector operation in the cement industry in Algeria, and the EIB's first private sector operation under the new Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP).
* An international donor conference for support to economic reform in Lebanon, also known as Paris II Conference, took place on 23 November in the French capital on the initiative of President Jacques Chirac. Addressing Heads of State and Government, and International Organisations Representatives Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri described all the measures taken and planned by his government to modernise his country's economy, and promote the improvement of public debt financing conditions. All 26 delegations present expressed their support for Lebanon's programme of reforms. A number of these delegations announced their intention to make contributions to assist in the implementation of the reforms.
These contributions are estimated at a total of over € 4 billion, nearly € 1.2 billion of which have been pledged by EU participants (EU institutions plus Belgium, France, and Italy), underlining strong European support to Lebanon. The European Investment Bank alone pledged € 350 million of project-related finance. Thus Mr Hariri almost reached the € 5 billion target he had envisaged ahead of the conference.
The European Commission Delegation was led by President Romano Prodi, and that of the European Investment Bank by Vice-President Francis Mayer. Seven EU Member States were represented, including the Danish Presidency of the Council.
* Palestinian Legislative Council member and leading activist in Palestinian civil society Dr Hanan Ashrawi visited the European Commission in Brussels on 27 and 28 November. She was received on 27 November by Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou who had visited the Middle East last September.
The situation in the region was discussed, focussing in particular on gender issues. Mrs Ashrawi met External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten on 28 November. During this meeting the general situation in the Middle East was discussed, as well as prospects for Palestinian elections, the roadmap and the role of civil society in Palestinian reform.
* The 5th EU-Syria Joint Parliamentary Meeting was held on 20 and 21 November in Strasbourg, France. The President of the Syrian Parliament Abdel Khader Kaddoura was received by the President of the European Parliament Pat Cox. The Syrian Delegation met the European Parliament Vice-Presidents in charge of Euro-Mediterranean affairs, Renzo Imbeni and Joan Colom i Naval.
PROGRAMMES & PROJECTS
* FURTHER STEP ON THE WAY TO EUROMED INTERNET NETWORK FOR RESEARCH AND EDUCATION
The connection of the Mediterranean Partners to the 'GEANT' pan-European Internet network for the research and education community has got one step closer as the € 9.8 million contract for the second phase of the MEDA funded Eumedconnect project has recently been signed. On the basis of a study prepared under phase I of the project international IP (Internet Protocol) infrastructure will be provided to the Partners.
Eumedconnect is part of the Regional Euro-Mediterranean Information Society (EUMEDIS) Programme. It is co-ordinated by not for profit company DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe Ltd, Oxford, UK) , and brings together Universities and Research Institutions in all Mediterranean Partners and some EU Member States (France, Greece, Italy, and Spain).
* FOR BIRDS AND PEOPLE IN THE JORDAN VALLEY
The Jordan Valley Birdwatching Centre at Tel Saharon, Israel will be officially opened on 3 December as part of a MEDA funded regional peace project called 'For Birds and People in the Jordan Valley'. The project takes a regional approach to nature conservation by aiming to transform the entire Jordan Valley, which runs through Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan, into an ecologically sustainable area.
Its components integrate nature conservation, agricultural co-operation, education, eco-tourism, and research. The project is co-ordinated by Birdlife International. The partners on the ground are the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in Jordan (RSCN), and the Wildlife Palestine Society (PWLS).
At least 500 million birds of over 300 species pass through the Jordan Valley in the autumn, and in spring. The new Israeli Birdwatching Centre is one of nine such centres planned for the region. It will serve as both a tourist attraction and educational centre. The Centre will be opened by the Head of the European Commission Delegation to Israel Giancarlo Chevallard with the participation of the Israeli and Palestinian project partners, and a representative of Birdlife International's Middle East Office in Amman.
* CALL FOR TENDER FOR SUPPLY OF PUMPING SYSTEMS IN MAGHREB
A Call for Tender for the supply of photo voltaic water pumping systems in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia has been launched recently within a pumping programme implemented under the MEDA funded Euro-Mediterranean Regional Programme for the Environment. The pumping programme aims at supplying drinking water to rural areas in the three countries using a 'clean' energy source (photo voltaic solar energy).
Each installation will include a pumping system, a chlorine treatment system for producing drinking water, and a distribution network serving domestic users. The co-ordinator for the pumping programme is Spain's Universidad Politécnica de Madrid/Instituto de Energia Solar. The deadline for submitting tenders is 3 February 2003. For further information see Funding Opportunities Section, and
* MIGRATING BIRDS KNOW NO BOUNDARIES
An Israeli project called 'Migrating Birds know No Boundaries' has been among the winners of the European Commission sponsored eLearning Awards held under the eSchola programme, an EU initiative which is in the process of being extended to all the Mediterranean Partners.
'Migrating Birds…' is an interactive and computer-based educational project providing alternative ways of learning geography, physics, biology, and new technologies in high school. It has been the result of collaboration between Israel's Education Ministry, the University of Tel Aviv, and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. One of the most interesting aspects in the project is co-operation between Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian schools.
* EGYPT'S ECONOMY AND RELATIONS WITH EU IN FIGURES
Growth in Egypt has slowed down to 4.9% in 2001 after several years of steady increase. Inflation was down at 2.3% in 2001, and unemployment accounted for 9% of the work force in 2000. Tourism has been the main source of foreign currency in recent years with more than half of all visitors coming from the EU. Trade with the European Union fell by 12% in 2001 but the EU remains by far Egypt's main trading partner.
More details are to be found in 'The Egyptian economy and relations with EU-15' which is the latest issue in the 'Statistics in focus' series published by Eurostat, the EU Statistical Office. Statistics for the publication are compiled under the MEDSTAT Regional Programme.
Brussels,12 02 2002