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HTML Document Concluding statement, Palermo 1998

Released 03/03/2006

Concluding statement by Robin Cook, UK Presidency

Palermo, 3-4 June 1998

1. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to make a statement to inform you of the outcome of our meeting which has just finished. I should emphasise that my statement is on my own responsibility, as Chairman of the meeting, but I believe it represents a fair summary of the meeting.

2. The meeting in Palermo was conceived as an additional, ad hoc event, outside the normal cycle of the Ministerial Conferences, in order to enable us to review the progress achieved in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership since its historic launch in Barcelona nearly 3 years ago, to give it renewed momentum and to help prepare the ground for the next Ministerial Conference in Stuttgart in April 1999.

3. We have had a very full, open and constructive discussion over the past 24 hours, in which we have discussed all three chapters of the Partnership. To summarise, we have:

  • reaffirmed our commitment to the Partnership, to which all Partners continue to attach the highest importance;

  • reviewed the substantive results already achieved;

  • improved our understanding of the reasons why progress in some areas has been less rapid than in others;

  • agreed on broad priorities for the year ahead;

  • stressed our desire to work for a successful third Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference in Stuttgart in April 1999.

4. We had a full discussion of the relationship between the Euro-Med Partnership and other initiatives undertaken in the interests of peace, stability and development in the region, in particular the Middle East Peace Process. The Barcelona Declaration made clear that these processes should be regarded as complementary. This, and the support Barcelona can give to the peace process, was recognised by all. We all stood by our commitment at Barcelona to support the realisation of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace settlement in the Middle East based on faithful implementation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the principles of the Madrid Peace Conference, including the principle of land for peace, which would bring justice and security to the people of the region. Our discussions here in Palermo reflected a deepening of the concern expressed at Valletta about the obstacles which block the peace process, and particularly the non-implementation to date of provisions in the Israeli/Palestinian Interim Agreement. Participants emphasised that full implementation of commitments freely entered into is vital if further progress is to be achieved, and agreed that intensified action was required on all three of the negotiating tracks, the Syrian and Lebanese as well as the Palestinian.

5. Many participants noted EU declarations issued since Valletta, notably the Amsterdam and Luxembourg Declarations and the conclusions of the General Affairs Council on 23 February and 30 March. The enhanced EU role in the Peace Process was noted and welcomed.

6. In our further discussion of the political and security chapter we welcomed the progress so far achieved in developing Partnership Building Measures, including the project on the management of natural and man-made disasters. While recognising the constraints which currently exist, we agreed on the need to develop and sustain these Measures, under this and other chapters. We noted the continuing work on the issues of substance, including the concept of global stability and the need to develop common perceptions of the factors that contribute to it. This should contribute to the development of a Charter for Peace and Stability as foreseen in Barcelona. Senior Officials will take this forward by means of a special ad hoc meeting, with the aim of making progress before our meeting in Stuttgart.

7. On terrorism we recognised the serious threat that this phenomenon poses to many of the objectives of the process and the consequent need to strengthen our co-operation in preventing it. We welcomed the decision to hold a special ad hoc meeting of Senior Officials, accompanied by relevant experts, as a means of developing a dialogue on this key issue.

8. We welcomed the continuing initiative in the first chapter relating to international instruments in the human rights field and the useful recent conference in the United Kingdom, under the third chapter, involving officials, academics and NGOs. We all reaffirmed our wish to see co-operation and dialogue in this important field under the partnership further developed.

9. We had a full discussion of the Economic and Financial Chapter of the Partnership, the "engine" of the Euro-Med Partnership. We recognised that the creation of an area of shared prosperity, as set out in Barcelona, involves 3 main elements: the establishment of free trade, reforms towards economic transition; and action to encourage private investment.

10. We recognised that a central element of achieving the goal of establishing a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area by 2010 are the individual Association Agreements between the EU and individual partner countries. Since the Valletta Conference the first agreement - with Tunisia - has entered into force, and one more - with Jordan - has been signed. The partner countries expressed concern at the length of time for national ratification procedures in the EU. We recognised the importance of a proper understanding of the impact of economic transition and looked forward to the survey on this subject which is being drawn up in preparation for the Stuttgart Conference. We all hope for swift progress in the negotiations currently underway - with Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Algeria. In this context it was recognised that a mutually satisfactory compromise on agriculture was required for concluding these negotiations. We emphasised the importance of developing regional and sub-regional co-operation and integration, including the need for progress on cumulation of rules of origin.

11. In our discussions of the reform process linked to economic transition we recognised that the modalities and pace of this reform process vary; and that the process requires the continued support of the EU. We welcomed the recent meeting organised by the Commission which had helped improve understanding about the operation of the MEDA programme. The important role of the partner countries in the implementation of individual country programmes was noted. Overall the programme is operating satisfactorily and we welcomed the full commitment of the MEDA budget as evidence of its success. The Commission has carefully noted individual concerns expressed. We agreed the need to continue efforts to improve the implementation of MEDA and welcomed the Commission’s wish to ensure a continued close dialogue with the Mediterranean partners on all aspects of MEDA.

12. We discussed investment. Private investment will play a leading role in ensuring the success of the Partnership. We recognised the importance of promoting investment flows, including actions to create a favourable climate for investment. The various instruments provided already by the Community were noted, as were continuing initiatives in the Euro-Med framework, including follow-up to the two useful meetings held in London. We all want to see this sustained. The invaluable role of the EIB in supporting the development of the region’s infrastructure and of the private and financial sectors in the region was widely recognised.

13. We touched on debt. As was made clear in Barcelona, negotiation on debt issues has to take place in the appropriate fora, not within the Partnership. But with this understanding, we all looked forward to the inclusion of debt as a topic of our continuing dialogue on economic and financial issues.

14. We reviewed the concrete progress achieved in several agreed priority sectors such as the short and medium term action plan for the environment, the information system on water, and the energy forum. We noted work in hand on the transfer of technology. We all want the Industry Ministerial in Austria in October to achieve further progress in the field of industrial co-operation.

15. In our discussion of the third chapter, covering the partnership in social, cultural and human affairs, we recognised that this chapter provides the opportunity to make the Euro-Med process accessible the peoples of our countries. We want improved visibility and awareness of the Partnership. We underlined the vital contribution which civil society can play in the future development of the Partnership. We welcomed the decision by the Commission to relaunch decentralised co-operation programmes (MED Media, MED Campus, MED Urbs). We welcomed the emerging parliamentary co-operation, including the proposed inaugural meeting of the Parliamentary Forum this autumn.

16. We welcomed the positive outcome of the recent meeting in Stockholm on the dialogue between cultures and civilisations. We recognised the desirability of consolidating cultural co-operation in larger, framework programmes such as Euro-Med heritage and Euro-Med audiovisual. We commended the outcome of the meeting in Luxembourg on education. We reaffirmed our determination to work for a successful Euro-Med Culture Ministerial in Greece in September.

17. We welcomed the decision to hold an experts’ meeting on migration and human exchanges as a means of developing our dialogue on this important but sensitive subject. We also welcomed the new initiative to promote an improved understanding of the roots of violence in our society.

18. In conclusion therefore, I can say that we have had a very useful and constructive meeting. I believe we have made this important Euro-Med partnership and the valuable work it is doing more accessible and visible to our peoples and to the world in general. We have demonstrated our continued common commitment to the partnership and our desire to take it forward in positive and practical ways. In this way, we have laid the foundation for the third Ministerial Conference in Stuttgart. We all want to make that Conference a success.