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* The European Council is meeting in Brussels on 15-16 December. This is the last meeting of the year and the last under the UK Presidency of the EU, before Austria takes over the rotating Presidency in January 2006. The Summit of the Heads of State and Government is expected to be dominated by the discussions of the UK Presidency’s Proposal for the EU Financial Perspectives 2007-2013 with the aim of reaching political agreement. EU Enlargement is also on the agenda. The Council is expected to adopt the draft conclusions that have been agreed upon by the Council for general affairs and external relations meeting on 12 December. Foreign Ministers will discuss the Middle East and look to agree a declaration, which will be annexed to the European Council conclusions.

* The European Council for General Affairs and External Relations (GAERC) adopted at its meeting in Brussels on 12 December a common position setting out the framework for imposing restrictive measures against persons suspected of involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. The common position is aimed at implementing the UN Security Council resolution 1636 (2005) acknowledging the report of theUN international investigation commission on the terrorist bombing in Beirut that killed 23 people, including Rafiq Hariri. For more, see: http://ue.eu.int/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/en/gena/87502.pdf

* In adopting its conclusions on terrorism, GAERC welcomed the continued political dialogue on counter-terrorism with international organisations and key partners, including the US and Russia, and the progress made in broadening this dialogue, including through the agreement on a Code of Conduct for Combating Terrorism reached at the Barcelona Summit on 27 November. The Council also adopted other terrorim-related documents which will be presented to the European Council meeting of 15 and 16 December in Brussels. For the complete text, see:

* Javier Solana, high representative of the EU for CFSP, strongly condemned on 12 December the assassination of Lebanese deputy and journalist Gebran Tueni. In his declaration, he stated: “ This year, too many have been cowardly targeted, like Gebran Tueni, who were profoundly attached to the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon, and to the freedom of speech in the country”. For the complete statement, see: http://ue.eu.int/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/FR/declarations/87485.pdf The European Commission Delegation in Lebanon also issued a statement in which it stressed “that only through the unity of Lebanese people, of all Lebanese, regardless of their community, can terrorism against Lebanese and international law be defeated”, and extended its condolences to Gebran Tueni’s family and to all the personnel of An Nahar newspaper”.

* The European Commission signed on 13 December a €14 million contribution to the newly established European-Palestinian Credit Guarantee Fund. The Guarantee Fund, led by the German Development Bank (KfW), will support Palestinian small and medium size enterprises’ financing from local banks in the form of soft loans and grants. This €29 million Fund will be made up of contributions from the Commission (€14 million), KfW (€5 million), and the European Investment Bank (EIB) via FEMIP (€10 million). In addition to the Fund’s capital, the financing partners are providing technical assistance to the European-Palestinian Credit Guarantee Fund and partner banks with a view to strengthening the financial sector in the Palestinian Territories. The Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, welcomed this initiative as “a major step to revive the Palestinian economy”.

* Under its Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP), the European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending EUR 45 million to the Palestinian National Authority (PA) for an essential investment to upgrade electricity supplies. Mr. De Fontaine Vive, Vice President of the EIB in charge of FEMIP, commented at the signature ceremony on 13 December: “This operation marks the renewal of EIB financial assistance to the West Bank and Gaza Strip after an absence of five years. It forms part of the step-up in EU support for economic regeneration in Palestine in the light of the Gaza disengagement, re-launch of the Middle East Peace Process and the implementation of the Wolfensohn Action Plan. This investment will make a crucial contribution to strengthening the Palestinian economy and standard of living”. The project is part of a EUR 99 million programme for the rehabilitation and upgrading of the electricity transmission and distribution network throughout the Palestinian territories. http://www.eib.eu.int/

* In the framework of “Cities without slums” Programme, the EU and Morocco recently signed a financing agreement of 90 million euros for the “sectoral support programme for urban regeneration” in Morocco. The Programme emphasizes local ownership, the development of of the necessary social infrastructure for the population concerned (education, health) . With this programme, the EU is using an innovative and pragmatic approach to delivering EU financial assistance. For more information, contact: nadia.dupuis@cec.eu.int


* “ENVIRONMENT POLICY INTEGRATION AND SMAP III” WORKSHOP, 13-14 DECEMBER, DAMASCUS. The Delegation of the European Commission to Syria, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Local Administration, are organizing this meeting at which 80 participants are expected to attend including Ministries, public institutions, representatives of the private sector, NGOs and international agencies. The workshop will discuss how best to promote and achieve sustainable development goals in different policy areas at the national level. It will aim at increasing awareness of development and environmental issues to ensure environmental integration, improve awareness of experiences, methodologies, and to identify information sources and financing opportunities, as well as promoting successful inter-sectoral dialogue and greening of policies in various sectors. SMAP is a MEDA funded regional programme for the environment, coordinated by EuropeAid, Cooperation Office of the EC. For more, contact: malene.kamp-jensen@cec.eu.int

* “DISCOVER ISLAMIC ART” VIRTUAL MUSEUM LAUNCHED. The launching ceremony on Tuesday 13 December at the Kasbah and Museum of Oudayas in Rabat concluded the series of 13 launches that symbolically opened the doors to the Discover Islamic Art Virtual Museum in 13 countries all over Europe and the Mediterranean region. The project is part of the MEDA-funded EuroMed Heritage Programme, managed by EuropeAid, Cooperation Office of the EC. The Museum’s Permanent Collection and Database include at present 850 artefacts from 42 museums and 385 monuments and sites from 11 countries related to Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. Temporary Exhibitions will be launched in spring 2007. Click on the following to visit the Museum www.discoverislamicart.org

* “FAMILY PORTRAITS” FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN Following a call for proposals by the EC Delegation in Syria, the Association ECUME-Marseilles (Echanges CUlturels en MEditerranée) has been selected for implementing a project of “artistic residences in the Mediterranean”. Three ECUME associations from Alexandria, Damascus and Seville will collaborate in the project which will start beginning 2006. Two artists per city will reside for the length of the project (2months) in one of the other cities and will take 7 family portraits of 7 families typical of the city. The end result will be presented in a collective exhibition in Damascus in March 2006. For more information, see: www.ecumes.com


* “EUROPEAN NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY: A YEAR OF PROGRESS”. Since the presentation of the first European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Action Plans a year ago, the policy is proving its worth as a key instrument to promote good governance, economic and social development in countries around the EU’s land and sea borders. In this Communication, the Commission is setting out the progress so far and underlining the priorities for the coming year. The paper sets out how the ENP is responding to neighbouring countries wishes for closer relations with the EU, how it is addressing the concerns of EU citizens regarding issues such as migration and organised crime, and helping to achieve the objectives of the European Security Strategy. The Communication can be downloaded at the following link: http://europa.eu.int/comm/world/enp/documents/sec_2005_1521_en.pdf

Brussels,12 20 2005
European Union
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