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* The EU on 10 January congratulated Mahmud Abbas on his election as President of the Palestinian Authority. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that the Presidential elections “are an important step forward on the way to creating a democratic and viable Palestinian state”. “I am particularly pleased”, he went on, “that the Commission was able to contribute by organising and sending the EU’s biggest ever observation mission with 260 members”(see below). Mr Barroso’s statement is on line at http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/gaza/intro/index.htm . A statement was also issued by the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU Council, which paid “tribute to the Palestinian people and government for the commitment to democracy that they have just demonstrated”. The full text is available from the web site http://www.eu2005.lu/en/actualites/pesc/2005/01/1001elecpal/index.html . The President of the EU Council and Luxembourg Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean Asselborn, will visit the Middle East on 19 and 20 January. In preparation for his visit, which will take him to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Mr Asselborn on 6 January had telephone conversations with his Palestinian and Israeli counterparts, Nabil Shaath and Silvan Shalom. http://www.eu2005.lu/en/index.html . EU High Representative Javier Solana met President elect Mahmud Abbas on 10 January in Ramallah, and congratulated him on his election. “A new opportunity now exists for peace”, Mr Solana stated. “This will require a deep engagement of the Palestinian leadership, but also of Israel”. The full text is available from the web site http://ue.eu.int/solana . The High Representative is currently visiting the Middle East to underscore the EU’s political engagement in the region. He was received by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan and met Foreign Minister Hani Al-Mulki on 9 January in Amman. He met Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on 11 January in Cairo. He also held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on 13 January in Tel Aviv.

* “The 9 January election for the President of the Palestinian Authority represented a genuine effort to conduct a regular electoral process. Despite the difficult and tense conditions, Palestinian electoral authorities made adequate and sufficient arrangements for voters and the strong turn out showed that the public was enthusiastic to exercise its democratic rights”. This is how the EU Election Observation Mission to the West Bank and Gaza introduced its findings in a Preliminary Statement distributed at a Press Conference on 10 January. However, the EU Mission expressed concern “at the last minute changes for voting at the special polling stations”, “at the lack of proper voting facilities and clear procedures for the voters of East Jerusalem”, and noted that “there were restrictions on the freedom of movement for candidates”. “The most serious problems facing the election”, the Mission concluded, “stemmed from the wider political context and the impact of the existing occupation and conflict”. The EU Mission, led by Member of the European Parliament and former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, included participants from EU Member States plus Norway, Switzerland, and Canada. The Mission will issue a final report with recommendations at a later date. A 28 member delegation from the European Parliament (EP) worked in close co-operation with the official EU Election Observation Mission, and the delegation leader, EP Vice-President Edward McMillan Scott, stated that “the Palestinians – especially women – have conducted an election of which they can be proud. It prepares the ground for the parliamentary elections, which could serve as a model for others in the region”. The Preliminary Statement is on line at

* The European Parliament (EP) Delegation for Relations with Israel met on 13 January in Strasbourg, France. The recent Presidential elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were discussed in the presence of Alon Roth-Snir, Deputy Head of the Israeli Mission to the EU. The Delegation also addressed the results of a meeting between its Chair and representatives of the Knesset and the Israeli Foreign Ministry on the current state of EP-Knesset relations. The EP Delegation for Relations with the Mashrak Countries will meet on 18 January in Brussels. A presentation on the implementation of the MEDA Programme will be made by the Director for the South Mediterranean/Near and Middle East within the European Commission’s EuropeAid Co-operation Office, Richard Weber. This will be followed by an exchange of views.

* A Euro-Mediterranean Workshop on State Aid will take place on 17 and 18 January in Brussels. Officials from the Mediterranean Partners will first hear presentations by European Commission representatives of EU rules and policies in this area. Other sessions will give them an insight into how new EU Member States and non-EU States, notably members of the European Free Trade Association, have introduced EU state aid rules and procedures. Finally Mediterranean Partners’ representatives will be informed of the implications of obligations on state aid under the Association Agreements and the Neighbourhood Action Plans, and they will present the rules and systems they have put in place for monitoring, identifying, and reporting state aids.


Statistics of budgetary implementation for the Mediterranean Area in 2004 were released on 11 January by the Directorate for the South Mediterranean/Near and Middle East within the European Commission’s EuropeAid Co-operation Office. Credit commitments in 2004 were worth more than € 1 billion, and payments over 1.1 billion. Payments for the MEDA Programme alone stood at over € 800 million while commitments were at € 700 million, i.e. a payment/commitment ratio of 115%. In 2004 alone payments under MEDA were practically as high as the amounts paid out under the whole MEDA I Programme between 1995 and 1999. Those exceptional results reflect the efforts made by EuropeAid, the European Commission Delegations in the Mediterranean Partners, and the Partners’ administrations under the reform of external assistance implemented by the Commission. They are all the more remarkable since they go hand in hand with the general improvement of the Programme’s quality, as demonstrated by monitoring reports prepared on the ground to assess the projects’ impact.

Senior Officials of the Euro-Mediterranean partners’ Statistical Offices and other relevant administrations, including the European Commission, will meet on 17 and 18 January in Brussels for a high-level Directors’ Committee of the MEDA funded Regional Statistical Co-operation Programme (MEDSTAT). Mediterranean Partners are expected to renew their commitment to implementing the MEDSTAT Programme, managed by the European Commission’s EuropeAid Co-operation Office with the technical expertise of the EU Statistical Office (Eurostat). The outcome of MEDSTAT I will be outlined by the European Commission, and a general presentation will be made of MEDSTAT II, which is currently being reinforced. A number of MEDSTAT II sectoral strands will then be presented, including MED-IS for the Information Society, MED-SOC for Social Issues, MED-Comext for Trade, and the new MED-Energy. The data transmission and dissemination strategy under the Programme will be discussed, focusing on the impact of MEDSTAT I and prospects for future implementation. Co-ordination between MEDSTAT and bilateral and multilateral statistical co-operation programmes will also be looked at in the light of experience on both sides of the Mediterranean. The meeting will be opened by EuropeAid’s Director for the South Mediterranean/Near and Middle East, Richard Weber, and Eurostat’s Director for External Relations Statistics, Pieter Everaers.

* FEMISE Call for Candidates for Country Profiles
A new Call for Candidates for the preparation of country profiles on Israel and the Palestinian Authority was launched recently by the MEDA supported Euro-Mediterranean Forum of Economic Institutes (FEMISE). Subjects to be addressed are Finance; Fiscal Issues; Trade; Labour and Human Resources; Governance & Institutional Issues. The deadline for submitting applications is 24 January. Further details are available from the FEMISE web site: http://www.femise.org


The new European Commission is the focus of a special issue of Newsline, the newsletter published by the European Commission Delegation in Jordan. The latest regular issue (Volume 1, No 9) addresses Poverty Reduction and Women’s Health in Jordan. http://www.deljor.cec.eu.int


The European Commission Delegation in Cairo has had a new Head since early January in the person of Klaus Ebermann, who was previously Head of Delegation in Beijing, China. He replaced Ian Boag who became Head of the Delegation in Kiev, Ukraine. A new Head of Delegation has also taken up his post on 1 January at the European Commission Delegation of Tel Aviv. His name is Ramiro Cibrian Uzal and he was Head of Delegation in Prague, Czech Republic before the latest EU Enlargement, then Chief of Staff of European Commissioner Vladimir Spidla. He replaced Giancarlo Chevallard in Israel.

Brussels,01 17 2005
European Union
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