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The EU Council of Ministers on 13 December adopted a Decision approving the signing of a Protocol to the EU-Jordan Association Agreement which adjusts the Agreement to take into account the accession of 10 new Member States to the EU last May. This is the second in a series of Protocols that need to be signed with all Mediterranean Partners with which the EU has concluded an Association Agreement. The first Protocol to be approved related to Egypt


* The European Commission on 10 December announced that the EU Election Observation Mission for the Presidential elections in the West Bank & Gaza Strip had begun work. In total, the EU is deploying more than 260 observers. The overall objective is to give the Palestinian society a chance to hold meaningful and credible elections to provide democratic legitimacy for the institutions on the road to statehood. Some € 14 million have been allocated since 2003 to prepare the elections. Of this, € 2.5 million has been designated for the EU Election Observation Mission. The aid is managed by the Commission's EuropeAid Co-operation Office. More on EU Election Assistance and Observation at
human_rights/eu_election_ass_observ/index.htm .

* The EU-Israel Customs Co-operation Committee has given the green light to a technical arrangement for identifying goods exported to the Union from settlements in the occupied territories, which the EU regards as not covered by the Association Agreement, and therefore not eligible for preferential tariff treatment. As a result of the arrangement, proposed earlier this year by Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel will now specify the place of production, thus allowing EU customs officials to identify which goods come from Israel proper (within its 1967 borders), and which come from the illegal settlements in the West Bank, Golan, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Products from the latter are liable to pay full customs duties. The new arrangement comes into effect on 1 February 2005. EU representatives, in agreeing this system, underlined that this was purely a customs measure to allow EU customs authorities to impose duties in accordance with the EU-Israel Association Agreement, and was not a solution to the disagreement with Israel over the geographical applicability of the Agreement.


* The EU Council meeting on 13 and 14 December in Brussels endorsed the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Action Plans for Israel, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia approved by the European Commission (as well as others for the EU's Eastern neighbourhood), and adopted conclusions on the ENP. The Council "emphasised that the intensity and level of ambition of relations with each ENP partner will be differentiated, reflecting the degree to which common values are effectively shared, the existing state of relations with each country, its needs and capacities, as well as common interests". The Council also noted that the Association Agreements established within the Barcelona Process "provide the framework for pursuing the implementation and monitoring of the Action Plans". In addition, the Council noted the European Commission's intention to present country reports on Egypt and Lebanon by March 2005 in view of engaging consultations with those countries about Action Plans. The full text of the conclusions is available on line as part of the Results of the 13-14 December External Relations Council at http://europa.eu.int/news/index_en.htm (please go to 'Council', right; click on 'Press', top left, and go to 'Latest News').

* The 5th meeting of the EU-Israel Association Council took place on 13 December in Brussels in a very good atmosphere. The plenary session was chaired by Dutch Foreign Minister and current EU Council President Bernard Bot, and attended by Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Luxembourg Foreign Minister and next EU Council President Jean Asselborn, EU High Representative Javier Solana, EU Special Envoy Marc Otte, and European Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The agreement on the Neighbourhood Action Plan for Israel was warmly welcomed, and viewed as a platform for deepening the bilateral relationship and for broadening co-operation in many areas. Ms Ferrero-Waldner outlined the good progress made in implementation of the Association Agreement and called for the early creation of sub-committees. Mr Shalom said he believed in the capacity of the Barcelona Process for building peace and stability, and that Israel was fully committed to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Under Political Dialogue Israeli and EU representatives discussed Anti-Semitism, the Fight against Terrorism, the Middle East Peace Process, Iran, and Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Ms Ferrero-Waldner said there is no place in the EU for anti-Semitism, racism or xenophobia. On the Middle East Peace Process Mr Shalom said that the EU had an important role to play, and that Israel was taking steps to facilitate free and fair elections in the West Bank and Gaza, including by ensuring freedom of movement for EU observers. The Israeli Minister stressed his government's commitment to the Road Map.

* The Protocol to the EU-Egypt Association Agreement which adjusts the Agreement to take into account the accession of new Member States to the EU last May will be signed on 20 December in Brussels. It will be the first Protocol of this kind to be signed with a Mediterranean Partner.

* The Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue on the Future of the Textile Sector was launched on 13 December in Brussels. Senior officials of the 10 Mediterranean Partners, 17 EU Member States, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as several European Commission departments agreed that there are strategic industrial synergies and complementarities to be developed together in order to meet a growing competitiveness challenge from other parts of the world. Priorities for future work were identified in the areas of industrial co-operation, competitiveness, research and technological development, innovation and technology transfer, and education and training. Working groups will start meeting in early 2005 on each of those issues under the co-chairmanship of an EU Member State (or candidate country) and a Mediterranean Partner. The Euro-Mediterranean Dialogue on the Textile Sector is a follow-up to the Industry Ministerial Conference held in Caserta last October. It comes against the background of the elimination of import quotas on textile and clothing products scheduled for early 2005 under new WTO rules.

* The 5th meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Transport Forum will take place on 21 and 22 December in Brussels at senior officials' level. The meeting will be opened by the Director for the South Mediterranean-Near and Middle East at the European Commission's EuropeAid Co-operation Office, Richard Weber, and the Commission's Director for General Affairs and Resources within the Directorate General Transport and Energy, Dominique Ristori. The Forum will review the achievements of the MEDA funded Euromed Transport Regional Project, managed by EuropeAid. The diagnostic of Mediterranean transport prepared under the project's "main contract" will be presented and discussed, as well as the state of play of the Infrastructure project whose activities are incorporated in the work of the High-Level Group for the Extension of the Trans-European Transport Network to the new neighbourhood countries. Furthermore, the Forum will be updated on two new Euromed Transport activities, Euromed GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System or GALILEO), and the maritime safety project (SAFEMED) . Other EU funded programmes with relevance to Euro-Mediterranean transport co-operation will be discussed. This includes the MEDA Neighbourhood Programme 2004-2006 and the INCO-MED Programme on Research and Development. Transport Infrastructure Financing and the activities of the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP) will be addressed by a European Investment Bank representative. In addition, proposals on the structure of the Forum and the future of its working groups will be put forward by the Forum Secretariat.


The Opening Conference for the "Justice" strand of the MEDA funded "Justice, Police and Migration" Regional Programme, managed by the European Commission's EuropeAid Co-operation Office, will be held on 20 December in Brussels. The Justice project's overall objective is to create an inter-professional community of magistrates, lawyers and legal practitioners in the framework of an open and modern justice service, strengthening the rule of law and the effective implementation of human rights. As the Justice project consists of training seminars and workshops on exchange of experience and best practice, as well as the setting up of a Euro-Mediterranean judicial training network, the Conference will enable Senior Officials from the 35 Euro-Mediterranean partners and the European Commission to specify the activities to be carried out and the way in which they will be launched. Five priority themes will be covered: Training on co-operation and international judicial mutual assistance regarding criminal matters; Terrorism and interconnection of criminal networks; International dimension of financial procedures, Money laundering; Training on co-operation and international judicial mutual assistance regarding civil matters; Management and administrtion of the Judiciary, management of procedures, IT processes. Participants in the Conference will determine topics to be addressed by the seminars, EU Member States and Mediterranean Partners involved. Officials taking part in the Conference will also define the profile of participants in the training network and the role of "National Focal Points".

A Workshop on Environmental Policy Integration will take place on 18 and 19 December in Cairo under the MEDA funded Regional "SMAP III" Short and Medium Term Priority Environmental Programme, managed by the European Commission's EuropeAid Co-operation Office. The Workshop aims to discuss the mechanisms through which sustainable development goals can be promoted effectively in different policy areas at national level, and to encourage cross-sectoral thinking and collaboration. Emphasis will be put on the provision of environmental integration tools such as case studies and good practices for sound environmental management. Participants will be officials and experts working with environment-related departments or entities, as well as other stakeholders including SMAP beneficiaries in Egypt.

The MEDA supported Economic Research Forum for the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey is holding its 11th Annual Conference from 14 to 16 December in Beirut. A "Pre-conference" was held on 13 December where in particular the Sustainability Impact Assessment of the Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area was discussed. The Conference itself addresses five main themes (Trade, Finance, Labour Markets and Human Development, Sectoral Issues, and Macroeconomy). The Conference provides a forum for regional experts, research institutes and government bodies to exchange views on regional economic issues. MEDA support to the Conference is provided through the FEMISE Project (Euro-Mediterranean Forum of Economic Institutes), managed by the European Commission's EuropeAid Co-operation office.

A training course on how best to promote and market craft products will take place from 18 to 25 December in El Golea, Algeria under the MEDA funded PRODECOM project, part of the Euromed Heritage II Regional Programme, managed by the European Commission's EuropeAid Co-operation Office. Participants will be Algerian craftspeople who will bring along some of their products with their logo, packaging and promotion tools in order to review and improve their design. The course will also be an opportunity for participants to raise issues such as cost-efficiency, relation between quality and price, and administrative costs. The experience of Algerian craftspeople in using local raw materials will also be looked at. PRODECOM is co-ordinated by France's Chamber of Mediterranean Fine Arts and involves partners from Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, and Greece. http://www.chbeauxarts-prodecom.org

A Call for Proposals for activities and initiatives of civil society organisations that support the Middle East Peace Process was launched by the European Commission on 9 December under the EU Partnership for Peace Programme. Guidelines for applicants are available from the following web sites: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/europeaid/cgi/frame12.pl and http://www.delwbg.cec.eu.int

Brussels,12 20 2004
European Union
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