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What’s New in the EU: Barcelona Process sets priorities for 2009

Jerusalem Post

What’s New in the EU: Barcelona Process sets priorities for 2009

6 November 2008

By Ari Syrquin, The Jerusalem Post

Foreign Ministers from all 43 states of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, known as the Barcelona Process, met in Marseille on Monday and Tuesday to endorse plans for the mandate, structure and institutional governance of the process. The initiative, launched at the Paris Summit in July, aims at injecting a renewed political momentum into the EU’s relations with the Mediterranean states through the reinforcement of shared ownership and the achievement of wider visibility through a far-reaching program of projects.

The foreign ministers examined the details of the European Commission’s proposals for the functioning of the co-presidency as well as the composition, seat and funding of its secretariat. In efforts to advance the regional integration process, the ministers agreed on priorities for the 2009 working program.

The new proposed architecture will build on the existing foundations and structures of the Barcelona Process. Projects are at the core of the restructured partnership; in their sourcing and administration, the secretariat will strive to ensure that the selected projects promote growth, employment, regional cohesion and socioeconomic integration.

The Paris Summit identified a number of key areas: de-pollution of the Mediterranean; maritime and land highways; civil protection; Mediterranean Solar Plan; Euro-Mediterranean University; and a Mediterranean business-development initiative.

Bearing in mind the Barcelona five-year work program and the Declaration of the Paris Summit, the ministers outlined their ministerial meetings agenda and discussed the priorities for the 2009 work program, in line with the key areas identified in Paris. Ministerials are planned for 2009 in the following sectors: transportation, higher education, environment, trade, justice, liberty and security, economy and finance, sustainable development, and strengthening the role of women in society.

The Barcelona Process, launched by Euro-Mediterranean foreign ministers in November 1995, formed an innovative alliance based on the principles of joint ownership, dialogue and cooperation. It brings together the 27 members of the European Union and 12 southern Mediterranean states. The Barcelona Declaration outlines the main objectives of the partnership: to build together an area of peace, security and shared prosperity. Progress toward this end is to be achieved by activities in the political area, the economic/financial area and the cultural/social sector. In 2005 migration was added as a fourth key sector.

The EU works closely with each of its Mediterranean partners to establish support programs for economic transition and reform, which take into account each country’s specific needs and characteristics. These actions are funded under the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument.

In June 2008 the EC said substantial progress had been achieved toward the establishment of a Euro-Med free-trade area by the target year 2010. The scope of negotiations has been gradually extended to services and right of establishment and agricultural and fisheries products. At the last Euro-Med Ministerial on Trade, ministers agreed to continue negotiations on the establishment of a more efficient dispute settlement mechanism for the trade provisions of the association agreements.

The EC has also encouraged the establishment of a network of free-trade agreements in the region and has also supported the establishment of regional integration (Agadir Agreement).

Ari Syrquin is the head of the international department at GSCB Law Firm.