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Benita Ferrero-Waldner

European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy

Address to Euromed Ministerial Plenary Session

Euromed Ministerial, Lisbon 5-6 November 2007
Lisbon 5-6 November 2007

Ministers, Colleagues, dear friends,

First I want to congratulate Foreign Minister Amado and the Portuguese Presidency for their warm hospitality.

Today we stand on the eve of an important moment in this region’s development. But before I come to that, let us review where we are.

Twelve years into this special Partnership and two years after the Barcelona Summit, where Heads of State & Government agreed a substantial five-year Work Plan, we have many achievements to be proud of:

  • We are moving closer to a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area - the largest free trade area in the world covering more than 740 million consumers;
  • We have signed and ratified Association Agreements with all partners except one, and concluded European Neighbourhood Action Plans with all except two;
  • We have agreed a Euro-Mediterranean Code of Conduct on Countering Terrorism; one of the defining moments in our partnership. And organized the first Euromed seminar on ‘the role of the media in preventing incitement to terrorism’. 
  • The ‘Euromed and the Media’ initiative, launched in 2005, has made recommendations in areas such as freedom of expression, xenophobic and racist writing, and reporting terrorism.
  • Following last year’s Ministerial on ‘Strengthening the Role of Women in Society’ we have been working intensively on implementing the five-year Framework of Action.
  • Education has been a priority sector in our partnership and we have allocated €15 million from our Erasmus Mundus Programme for grants for nearly 600 Mediterranean students.
  • And we have set up the Anna Lindh Foundation for dialogue of cultures, whose work will have even more resonance as we begin in 2008 the “The European Year of Intercultural Dialogue”. I hope we will soon have a new President.
  • All these achievements have been underpinned by the European Neighbourhood Policy, which itself has been reinforced following our highly successful conference in September. Under the new European Neighbourhood and Partnership instrument, €725 million have been committed to 30 new programmes in 2007 alone.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These are not achievements to be taken lightly. They have made our partnership solid and durable. And set a high standard for the future.

But let us be frank, the Euro-Mediterranean partnership has not yet fulfilled its entire potential. We have not been able to go as far as we would like; in large part because of the running sore of the Middle East conflict.

Ideas, such as the Euro-Mediterranean Union proposed by President Sarkozy, could add political momentum for regional cooperation and are welcome. They should build up on experience gathered and structures established by the existing regional policies like the Barcelona Process, Euromed and the European Neighbourhood Policy. The Commission should be fully associated and we are ready to cooperate.

I do truly believe however, that that might be about to change. We are, I hope, on the brink of making progress towards settling this terrible longstanding conflict. We spoke about the Annapolis conference at some length last night, and I don’t want to repeat what I said then.

The key is that we have a serious and substantial meeting, which gives real momentum for the future.

Dear friends,

There is an Asian proverb that states ‘A journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step”. We have taken that first step; but to enable us to go more rapidly we must make sure we can exploit the full potential of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. There are many new initiatives like in the field of energy. We discussed last week many of the key energy issues during the energy meeting that for the first time we held between the EU, Africa and Middle East countries in Sharm el Sheik and many interesting ideas came up. That means making serious progress on the Middle East, and looking at ways of deepening and widening our partnership. We are keen to develop relations with Libya, and Mauritania and Albania both wish to join our Partnership, requests I wholeheartedly support.

If we are able to muster the sufficient political will to tackle these challenges and make more of the Euro-Med Partnership I am certain it will stand us in good stead for tackling the challenges that lie ahead. And you can certainly count on my personal commitment to ensuring we continue this unique and meaningful journey to its end.

Thank you.

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