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The Valencia Ministerial Conference and its Action Plan
To extend and strengthen the decisions of the Marseilles Ministerial Conference and to present initiatives in order to pursue and develop the Euro-Mediterranean partnership in all its aspects.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament of 13 February 2002 to prepare the meeting of Euro-Mediterranean foreign ministers in Valencia on 22 and 23 April 2002 [SEC(2002) 159 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
In this communication, the Commission starts by summarising the progress made in the context of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. This progress consists in particular of developing the grid of Association Agreements with the Mediterranean partners, making progress towards the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area, refocusing the MEDA programme on strategic objectives, furthering MEDA regional cooperation and maintaining the political dialogue.
The communication contains a series of recommendations covering the areas of political and security cooperation, freedom, justice and governance, social, cultural and human dimensions, civil society, economic and financial partnership and a reform of the institutional device for managing the partnership.
In terms of the political and security partnership, the Commission proposes to reinforce the political dialogue by holding meetings at political director level. It is also favourable to intensifying the fight against terrorism, through the available international instruments, and to defining a joint approach and a Euro-Mediterranean information and cooperation network. Human rights and democracy within the Mediterranean partner countries should also be promoted, particularly by raising these questions during all contacts between these countries and the European Union and by linking MEDA programme allocations more closely to progress in these fields.
In the area of justice and home affairs, the Commission proposes that the partners should agree a general framework leading to a Euro-Mediterranean regional programme on freedom, justice and governance which would cover, in particular, dialogue on legal matters and the fight against organised crime, illegal migration, trafficking in human beings, the management of legal migration and the treatment of migrant communities.
In the area of the social, cultural and human partnership, and in order to reinforce the dialogue between cultures and civilisations, the Commission particularly proposes creating a Euro-Mediterranean Foundation financed by the Member States, the Commission and the Mediterranean partners. In the field of education, the Commission suggests extending the Tempus programme and NETDAYS and eSchola initiatives to the Mediterranean partner countries. The Commission also proposes new initiatives aimed at developing vocational training and enhancing women's opportunities in economic life (access and participation in the labour market and promotion of their role in business).
As regards the economic and financial partnership, the Commission recommends the continued integration of South-South trade by encouraging free trade between the Mediterranean partners (particularly in the context of the Agadir process encompassing Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan) and extending the pan-European system of rules of origin (encompassing the countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association and the applicant countries) to the Mediterranean partners. In addition, the Commission recommends defining the priorities for negotiations with the Mediterranean partners to liberalise trade in services.
In addition, the Commission proposes improving reciprocal access to the agricultural markets, developing and interconnecting the transport and energy infrastructures, harmonising policies and regulations with a view to a Euro-Mediterranean internal market and ensuring sustainable development with a high level of environmental protection.
With regard to financial instruments, and in addition to the MEDA programme, the Commission envisages creating a new financial facility or a Euro-Mediterranean bank intended to promote the development of the private sector in the Mediterranean partner countries.
The Commission also suggests promoting the place of civil society within the partnership.
As regards the institutional aspects of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, the Commission recommends a rapid ratification by the Member States of the Association Agreements with the aim of completing ratification within two years. It also proposes enhancing the role of the Euro-Mediterranean Committee on acquis-related business and reinforcing the dialogue on economic policy at both bilateral and regional levels.
5) FOLLOW-UP WORK
The Fifth Euro-Mediterranean Conference was held on 22 and 23 April 2003 in Valencia. It brought together the foreign ministers of the fifteen Member States of the European Union and of Algeria, the Palestinian Authority, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. Libya and Syria refused to take part. Also present were Mr Solana, High Representative for the CFSP and Secretary-General of the Council, Commissioner Patten, and also, as special guests, representatives from Libya, the Arab League, Mauritania and the Arab Maghreb Union.
The ministers unanimously adopted an Action Plan now referred to as the Valencia Action Plan covering the three political, economic and socio-cultural chapters of the Barcelona process. This plan includes a number of initiatives largely based on the Commission Communication of 13 February 2002.
With regard to the political and security chapter, the action plan aims to reinforce political dialogue and make this more effective by including, for the first time, security and defence issues. In addition, it confirms the mandate of the senior officials on the draft Charter for Peace and Stability allowing them to continue studying this project as soon as the political conditions will allow this. The action plan also recognises the importance of a multilateral approach in the fight against terrorism and proposes a gradual reinforcement of the political aspect by introducing a common strategic language and by developing preventive diplomacy mechanisms.
As regards the economic and financial chapter, the action plan, while recalling the objective of creating a Euro-Mediterranean free trade area by 2010, supports the Agadir process creating a free area between Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. It also welcomes the implementation of the conclusions of the trade ministers' meeting in Toledo by supporting the creation of a Working Group on Trade Measures relevant for Regional Integration and the participation of the Mediterranean partners in the pan-European system of rules of origin. The action plan also emphasizes the development of free trade in services, the trans-Euro-Mediterranean interconnections and infrastructures (with regard to transport, energy and telecommunications networks) and the prospects of a Euro-Mediterranean internal market underpinned by a harmonisation of policies and regulations. It also stresses the need for a sustainable strategic development framework for the partnership.
As regards financial cooperation, the action plan highlights the improved management of the MEDA programme and welcomes the introduction of a reinforced investment facility within the European Investment Bank (EIB) to promote infrastructure and private sector investment. The plan also notes the fact that, one year after the launch of this facility, the possibility of creating a Euro-Mediterranean bank (majority-owned subsidiary of the EIB), as desired by the Mediterranean partners, will be considered in light of the assessment of this experience.
On the social, cultural and human chapter, the action plan approves the regional work programme on justice and home affairs and the launch of a ministerial conference on migration and social integration of emigrants. It also underlines the particular importance of promoting dialogue between cultures, particularly through the decision in principle to create a Euro-Mediterranean Foundation to promote a dialogue of cultures and the adoption of an action programme in this respect. The action plan also aims to promote employment and training, the role of women in economic life and the more effective participation of civil society in the partnership. The Tempus higher education programme has therefore been extended to the southern Mediterranean partners.
Finally, on the institutional aspect of the partnership, the action plan recommends strengthening the parliamentary dimension of the partnership by creating a Euro-Mediterranean parliamentary assembly. It also recommends examining the possibilities of restructuring the Euromed Committee in order to ensure a greater involvement of partners in the elaboration, monitoring and evaluation of agreed programmes, actions and projects.