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The trade provisions of the EU-Lebanon Association Agreement entered into force on 1 March by virtue of an Interim Agreement, which will remain valid until the ratification of the Association Agreement is completed. European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten said: "This brings Lebanon and Europe closer together as part of the wider Euro-Mediterranean area….It is my hope that Lebanese goods will become a familiar sight in our shops and supermarkets, and that European businesses will take up the increased trade and investment opportunities in Lebanon".

European Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy stated: "I am particularly pleased that Lebanon has opted for the fast track by seeking through this Interim Agreement an early start to the transition to free trade. This demonstrates that Lebanon is determined to meet, sooner rather than later, its commitments on approximating its trade and economic legislation with that of the European Union. It is also a step in the right direction towards Lebanon's accession to the WTO".


* European Commission Vice-President in charge of Transport and Energy Loyola De Palacio is visiting Morocco on 6 and 7 March to discuss co-operation in those two areas. She will meet Prime Minister Driss Jettou, Alternate Minister for Foreign Affairs and Co-operation Taieb Fassi Fihri, Industry and Trade Minister Rachid Talbi El Alami, Minister for Energy and Mining Mohamed Boutaleb, and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Karim Ghellab.

* Tunisia's Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia will visit the European Commission in Brussels on 10 March. He will meet President Romano Prodi, European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten, and his colleague in charge of Trade Pascal Lamy. The main focus of the visit is on preparations for the next EU-Tunisia Association Council, which is scheduled to take place in July. Moreover Tunisia's external and internal situation will be discussed as part of regular consultations between partners.

* Morocco's Economy and Finance Minister Fathallah Oualalou was received by European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Pedro Solbes on 4 March in Brussels. The macro-economic situation and growth prospects in the EU and Morocco were discussed, as well as the possible economic effects of a war on Iraq. Mr Oualalou also met Commission senior officials with whom he discussed progress made on identifying programmes under the National Indicative Programme 2002-2004, and prospects for MEDA operations in Morocco in 2005-2006. During his visit the Minister signed two Financing Agreements worth a total of € 56 million, one on vocational training and the other on rural development (see p. 2).

* HRH Princess Basma bint Talal, sister of the late King Hussein of Jordan, met three European Commissioners on 3 and 4 March in Brussels for exchanges of views on the development initiatives of the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development, an NGO she founded in 1977. The Princess was received by European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Poul Nielson, and by his colleagues in charge of Education and Culture, and Employment and Social Affairs Viviane Reding, and Anna Diamantopoulou respectively. Central to the talks was the significant role of civil society and NGOs in development. The possible impact on Jordan of a war on Iraq was discussed with Mr Nielson, the meeting with Ms Reding focused on youth, and the conversation with Ms Diamantopoulou revolved around gender issues, and equal opportunities.

* The 10th round of EU-Syria negotiations for an Association Agreement will be held on 12 and 13 March in Damascus. The principles contained in the Agreement's preamble will be discussed, as well as the format of Political Dialogue, the Movement of Goods, Economic Co-operation, and Justice and Home Affairs. The 9th round of EU-Syria negotiations took place last November.

* The next meeting of the Working Group on extending the Pan-European rules of origin to the Mediterranean Partners will take place on 26 March in Brussels. The Working Group was created as a follow-up to the Euro-Mediterranean Trade Ministerial Meeting of 29 May 2001.
For further information: Kristian.Vangrieken@cec.eu.int .


The Final Conference for the MEDA supported UNIMED Business Network project will take place on 11 March in Rome, Italy. It is entitled 'European Union and the Mediterranean: Towards Integration', and aims at presenting and discussing the business community's proposals for a successful Euro-Mediterranean Partnership after the end of the UNIMED project, which helped set up a South Mediterranean Business Association (UMCE). The Conference is hosted by the Confederation of Italian Industry (Confindustria), with support from the Italian Institute for Industrial Promotion (IPI). It will be opened by EU business representatives, and the opening session will also feature presentations by Greek Minister for Development Apostolos-Athanassios Tsohatzopoulos, and Italian Deputy Minister for Productive Activities Adolfo Urso on behalf of the current and next EU Presidencies respectively. A video message from European Commissioner for Trade Pascal Lamy will be delivered. Participants will address two main issues, which will be discussed in round table meetings. The 1st round table will focus on 'How economic integration in the Euro-Mediterranean Region can be reinforced', touching on trade, investment, innovation, and infrastructure. It will bring together personalities from both sides of the Mediterranean, and will be followed by a speech made by Tunisian Minister for Development and International Co-operation Mohamed Nouri Jouini. The 2nd round table will address 'The Human Dimension of integration in the Euro-Mediterranean Region', including training systems, and the movement of workers. Participants will include Morocco's Secretary of State for Vocational Training Said Oulbacha, and the Director General of the Cairo-based Economic Research Forum Prof. Heba Handoussa. The Conference will be preceded on 10 March by preparatory meetings designed to examine in detail the three main issues on the agenda of the main meeting.

Financing Agreements for two projects on Vocational Training and Argan Tree Uses in Morocco were signed by Morocco's Economy and Finance Minister Fathallah Oualalou during his visit to Brussels, and by European Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten. The Vocational Training project aims at improving the competitiveness of Moroccan businesses operating in tourism, textiles, and information and communication technologies (ICT) by upgrading the demand driven national vocational training delivery. The project will last 6 years with MEDA support worth € 50 million out of a total cost of € 65 million. It involves identifying skill requirements in the three sectors, and creating new training opportunities accordingly, which should in turn boost employment creation. The Argan Tree Project is aimed at modernising argan oil production through improving women's co-operative networks while preserving and extending argan tree areas. The project will last 5 years with MEDA funding of € 6 million out of a total cost of € 12 million. The project's implementation is expected to increase employment opportunities for women, and have a beneficial effect on the environment by fighting desertification.

A Donors' Consultation Workshop was held on 4 March in Brussels within the 'Regional Initiative for Dryland Management' which aims at fighting desertification in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, and Tunisia. The 2nd phase of the initiative is being supported by MEDA funding worth € 3 million that has been made available to a World Bank trust fund and directed to the Cairo-based International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) acting as the project's facilitating unit. The Workshop was a preparatory meeting for the Donors' Consultation Meeting due to be held mid-June, and it focused on the presentation and discussion of an External Review Panel's report and recommendations. Participants included national co-ordinators from all five Mediterranean Partners concerned. The Panel stresses the relevance of the Initiative's objectives, and suggests developing regional activities by enhancing communication between scientists in the participating countries and territories, and boosting personnel exchanges.

Fourteen NGOs spread across Algeria will receive EU grants worth around € 50,000 each for projects covering a wide range of areas from health and gender issues through environmental protection and water resources to cultural activities. Contracts for the projects were signed on 3 March by the Head of the European Commission Delegation in Algiers Lucio Guerrato. They form the first batch in a series of some 60 NGO projects to be financed under the MEDA funded Support programme for Algerian development organisations, which aims at promoting the role of Algeria's civil society in the country's development. The grants will not only go towards implementing development projects, but will also help train NGO representatives. The programme has been allocated € 5 million for a 4-year period.


Architectural beauty in central Tunis and the experience of young Tunisian entrepreneurs are featured in the latest issue (1st Quarter, 2003) of 'Union européenne News Magazine Tunisie', the magazine published by the European Commission Delegation in Tunis.

The latest issue (No 7) of 'ETE-NEWS', the newsletter published by Tunisia's MEDA funded Business Centre Euro-Tunisie Entreprise, focuses on upgrading and approximation of standards in the country's food industry.

Brussels,03 10 2003
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