* The European Parliament (EP) on 16 January approved the EU-Lebanon Association Agreement in a plenary session held in Strasbourg, France. After a debate on the Agreement and broader EU-Lebanon relations held on the previous day, the EP adopted two resolutions. One of them establishes formal ratification of the Association Agreement. The other resolution draws attention to some problems as regards respect for human rights, freedom of expression, the presence of non-Lebanese troops, and the situation of Palestinian refugees.
The Association Agreement still has to be ratified by the Parliaments of all 15 EU Member States, but an Interim Agreement will bring forward implementation of the Association Agreement's trade provisions as early as 1 March.
* The Free Trade Agreement between Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia (dubbed 'Agadir Agreement') was initialled by the four countries' Trade Ministers on 11 January in Amman. It is a follow-up to the Agadir Declaration adopted on 8 May 2001 by the same countries. Now the Agreement has to be complemented with some technical annexes, including the tariff schedule, before it can be signed. The Agreement will then have to be ratified according to each participating country's procedures.
* A Conference on Palestinian Reform took place on 14 January in London on the initiative of the UK Government, who had invited Members of the Quartet on the Middle East, and representatives of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority (PA). The Conference was chaired by UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The Palestinian Representative in London was present, but PA Ministers were prevented by the Israeli Authorities from leaving the West Bank & Gaza Strip. Video links with Ramallah and Gaza enabled some PA Ministers to take part in the discussions. The Quartet is made up of the EU, the United Nations, the United States, and Russia. EU participants to the London meeting included High Representative Javier Solana, and Senior European Commission and Greek Government Officials as Greece currently holds the EU rotating Presidency. Participants discussed Palestinian Reform in broader terms, including security issues. They welcomed a clear Palestinian declaration against violence and terrorism, and underlined the importance of implementing it.
On Constitutional Reform the PA committed themselves to drawing up a draft by late January, based on the principles of democracy, pluralism, the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, and the protection of individual freedom. On Judicial Reform participants expressed concern at the lack of progress, and Palestinians promised that the State Security Courts would be abolished within a year. On Economic Reform participants recognised work done so far within the PA, and undertook to strengthen audit capacity. After the meeting participants were received by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The next step should be a meeting of the International Task Force on Palestinian Reform in early February, along with a meeting of Quartet envoys.
* A Business Centres Conference is bringing together the managers of all the MEDA funded Private Sector Development Programmes or PSDPs (Business Centres and Industrial Modernisation Programmes) on 16 and 17 January in Brussels. The Conference is organised by the European Commission.
It is attended by PSDP managers, European Commission officials from Brussels Headquarters and Delegations in the Mediterranean, as well as representatives of Mediterranean Partners' national authorities. During the first day presentations were made of the specificities of each Business Centre (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia), and of national industrial modernisation policies. Two parallel workshops are scheduled for the second day, one on Industrial Modernisation in the MEDA Region, the other on the Business Centres' services and working methods.
* A meeting of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries and the Arab Maghreb Union, which was scheduled to take place on 15 January in Strasbourg, was cancelled at the last minute to enable the Delegation's Chairman and Vice-Chairman to take part in the debate on Lebanon (see above).
* Several Seminars and formal training courses are being held in Syria in January as part of the programme of the MEDA funded Syrian-European Business Centre (SEBC). Most of them will take place in Damascus and Aleppo consecutively. A seminar on Evaluation of Feasibility Studies & Investment Risks has taken place on 12 January in Damascus, and another one will be held on 19 January in Aleppo. A two-day course on Report Writing Skills will be held on 22 and 26 January, and a seminar on Budget and Debts will take place on 26 and 28 January.
* REMINDER - THE MEDA WEB SITE IS ON LINE
A MEDA web site was launched recently by the European Commission's EuropeAid Cooperation Office. It presents co-operation between the European Union and the Southern Mediterranean, Near and Middle East region, and includes information on MEDA funded bilateral and regional activities, as well as other important items such as financial statistics, sectors of co-operation, reports, and publications. Visit it and send us your feedback!
* HOW TO HIGHLIGHT EU SUPPORT
All projects wholly or partially funded by the European Union around the world must visibly acknowledge EU support. But how, where, and when ? The 'EuropeAid Visibility guidelines for external actions' explain just that in detail. The guidelines are to be found on the web at
Brussels,01 20 2003