|Euro-Med partners fail to agree|
|The Barcelona Declaration and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership did not succeed in creating a circle of Mediterranean countries that share effective political and economic relations, according to Patrick Renauld, head of the European Union delegation.
Renauld was speaking at La Sagesse University on the second day of a three-day event organized by the EU to mark the 10th anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.
Participants at the event will assess cooperation between Lebanese civil society and the European Commission through simulation exercises of drafting and negotiating action plans.
Renauld said the failure of south Mediterranean countries to improve their political, economic and social status had hindered the implementation of effective reforms. He also listed major political and economic asymmetry between these countries and the EU as another factor holding the process back.
"Courage, willingness and political interest which are essential to granting this partnership its true role were often missing," he said.
However, the EU official admitted the Barcelona Declaration and Euro-Med partnership had positive impacts.
He said bilateral relations between EU and southern Mediterranean countries had improved, and that this partnership was not only present among diplomats and officials but also among merchants, journalists, judges, researchers and others.
"All these exchanges positively increased during those 10 years and we can affirm that comprehension and acceptance of the other is increasing gradually despite the serious problem of integration that certain societies suffer from," he explained.
Renauld said ways to reactivate the Euro-Med Partnership are conditional to the political engagement of each European country that pushes forward reforms.
"This partnership should be an integral part of the foreign relations strategy of each European country," he said.
"We believe the European Neighborhood Policy will enrich the Barcelona Declaration," he added.
But, he stressed that success in achieving the Euro-Med objectives - of peace, stability, shared prosperity and respect for the other - is conditional to the participation of all stakeholders.
Social Affairs Minister Nayla Mouawad said the EU Neighborhood Policy will push Lebanon toward a better future.
"We're aware of the potential this partnership offers us and we decided to deploy all our efforts to make it fruitful," she said.
Mouawad said the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership contains equally important political, economic and social aspects.
"This partnership guarantees political and individual liberties, and encourages free exchange and modernization of the economy. Dialogue and intercultural exchange support understanding and acceptance of the other," she said.
"Today Lebanon reiterates its determination to collaborate with the EU within the framework of the EU Neighborhood Policy," she said. "We are preparing to negotiate the action plan" proposed by Lebanon's civil society and financed by the EU.
The plan includes reforms of the judicial, economic, social and environmental sectors.
Beirut,12 05 2005
The Daily Star