I am very pleased to have this opportunity
to talk to you about Euro-Mediterranean Relations. The European
Parliament has always been a strong supporter of the Barcelona
Process. I would like to express my gratitude - especially to
the many individual Members who are enthusiastic supporters of
Euro-Med relations - for your role as the driving force behind
the European Unionís active involvement in this region.
I have a personal interest in seeing the EU develop closer
relations with the Mediterranean. Not only is the region
strategically important for Europe, it is also our neighbourhood.
We share common bonds of geography, history, trade, migration,
and culture. That is why we have launched the European
Neighbourhood Policy. The Neighbourhood policy does not replace
the Barcelona Process; it reinforces it. It builds on the
Processí objectives and instruments, in particular developing
the EUís bilateral relations with each partner.
Let me start with a brief word about Lebanon. We all have
been shocked and saddened the assassination ten days ago of
former Prime Minister Mr Rafik Hariri. Mr Hariri was one of the
main architects of the agreements that brought the long awaited
end to civil war in Lebanon; he was a man committed to peace and
reconciliation, to the reconstruction of his war-torn country
and to the promotion of cooperation and stability in the region.
The best legacy to his relentless efforts would be to ensure
that free and fair parliamentary elections, under full Lebanese
sovereign control, take place as planned in May. It is in the
interest of Lebanon and of its stability that the circumstances
and the responsibilities of this criminal act are clarified as
soon as possible. That is why the Commission supports the idea
of an international, independent investigation of the terrorist
attack of 14 February. The Commission attaches the utmost
importance to the full and prompt implementation, by all parties
concerned, of UN Security Council Resolution 1559. This
resolution also calls for free and fair elections without
foreign interference, and for the withdrawal of all foreign
forces from Lebanon, the disbanding and disarmament of all
militias and the government control of all Lebanese territory.
Mr President, 2005 will be an important year for
Euro-Mediterranean relations. There are signs that Israel and
the Palestinians are at last trying to end the cycle of
violence. Many challenges and risks lie ahead. But we must lend
our full support to the Middle East Peace Process. We must move
rapidly beyond the cease-fire and Gaza withdrawal towards the
end goal - the two state solution.
In March, the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly will
meet for the second time in Cairo. At the end of May,
Euro-Mediterranean Ministers will meet in Luxembourg for the 7th
Barcelona Conference. And in November we will celebrate the 10th
anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration, with a conference in
the very same city that saw the birth of the Euro-Mediterranean
Partnership in 1995.
We should seize these opportunities and turn 2005 into a year
of substantial achievement in Euro-Med relations. In early April
the Commission plans to issue a Communication to the European
Parliament and Council containing specific proposals. We have
two broad objectives:
The first is to increase the impact of our policies, so
contributing to the pursuit of reform, peace and stability in
The second is to bring the partnership closer to our citizens'
concerns. The Barcelona Process has, to a large extent, been an
inter-governmental process. It is high time we ask ourselves
what the Partnership can do to meet the concerns of the people.
How can we more successfully tackle issues such as education,
employment, gender equality, democracy, the free circulation of
people, and migrants' rights? These are questions that affect
the day-to-day life of our citizens, and our Partnership should
I would like to give you some thoughts on priorities for the
We should reflect on how we can best use the Barcelona
Process to contribute to the Middle East Peace Process, and to
safeguard peace once we have it. We should address political
reform with our partners and work together with them on the
practical aspects of counter-terrorism and non-proliferation
of Weapons of Mass Destruction. The EU has an impressive
record in democracy-building, including in those countries
which are now new member states. We should use this experience
to help build stable democracies in the Mediterranean.
Education is an issue of fundamental importance for the
future of the region. The EU and our partners should increase
spending on education. We should set a target date for
eradicating illiteracy and focus on the critical issue of
improving quality and access to education - especially for
girls. Together we could also organise schemes for student
exchanges; improve higher education cooperation through a new
scholarship programme; and promote the study of European
In trade and economic relations we should reconfirm the
2010 target for free trade; agree a road map with a timetable
for free trade in agricultural and processed agricultural
products; decide on a timetable for liberalisation of
services; accelerate South-South free trade; use the
Neighbourhood Policy to help partners eliminate obstacles to
investment; and hold a meeting of Transport Ministers to
extend transport corridors to the Mediterranean with the
financial support of the EIB.
And finally, on the issue of Migration and Social
integration, we should promote a joint cooperative approach to
managing the movement of people. We should also implement
European Neighbourhood Action Plan commitments, including on
the social integration of migrants.
Before concluding, let me make reference to our cooperation
with the United States. The Broader Middle East and North Africa
initiative provides a valuable opportunity to work together with
other partners. Many of the EUís objectives for the region are
shared by the US, and we are more likely to achieve them
together. Working in parallel, reinforcing our common
objectives, the EU and US will have a greater degree of
persuasion and political influence in the region than we would
These are times of hope and opportunity in the Mediterranean
and Middle East. The UNDP Arab Human Development reports talk of
three deficits: in freedom, in womenís empowerment, and in
knowledge. They also rightly point out that the main constraint
is not resources but the lack of political commitment. On behalf
of the Commission I confirm our commitment to contribute to
progress in this region and to strengthen its relations with
But the Commission is also aware of the importance of having
sufficient resources to support EU policies. We have put forward
a proposal for a European Neighbourhood and Partnership
Instrument to operate under the next financial perspectives.
This instrument will support our cooperation and should allow
for a substantial increase in the annual amounts allocated to
I am sure the European Parliament will be our staunchest ally
in supporting these proposals, so enabling us to achieve our
ambitious policy objectives in the region.
Thank you for your attention.