|Europe invites Lebanon to join parliamentary assembly|
|Politicians were 'surprisingly welcoming'
A European parliamentary delegation has invited Lebanon to join the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA), a body with a mandate to bolster the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.
The delegation represents the EPP-ED group, the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats in the European Parliament and was headed by Edward McMillan Scott, the vice president of European Parliament.
Speaking during a conference Monday in Le Bristol Hotel in Beirut, Scott said: "Our mission is political and is based on the EU's deep engagement in the region's matters. This assembly will add another dimension to Euro-Mediterranean co-operation: country to country, people's representatives to people's representatives."
Scott said his delegation had met with various politicians, including Sidon MP Bahia Hariri and Saad Hariri, as well as Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir and Kesrouan MP Neamatallah Abi Nasr.
He added that politicians' reactions were "surprisingly welcoming" to the suggestion that Lebanon join the assembly. "The Christians in particular were very pleased with our offer because they share common values with our party, which has a majority of seats in the European Parliament."
Scott said the delegation places great importance on the EMPA as it strengthens the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, which is built on three pillars; political, economic, and social.
He said: "Since the launching of the Barcelona process it has become apparent that these pillars were not equally strong and that whereas the economic and trade pillar were solid, those supporting the political, cultural and social aspects of the partnership were less so. This assembly reinforces the partnership's foundations."
Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulo, a European Parliamentarian and a member of the EPP-EP group, said: "Our goal is to better understand the situation on the ground in order to realize peace, prosperity and security on both shores of the Mediterranean."
The delegation will meet Tuesday with Premier Najib Mikati and European ambassadors to Lebanon. The visit was organized by the Regional Amman Office of the Konrad Adenaur Foundation, which is related to the Christian Democratic Movement.
Beirut,05 23 2005
The Daily Star