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28th September - 5th October, 1996

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THE EURO-MEDITERRANEAN PARLIAMENTARY FORUM AND THE PARTNERSHIP

The Hon ANTON TABONE, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Malta


I would like to firstly thank you for your invitation to speak to you about the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Forum and its perspective on the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Process.

The 2nd session of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Forum (EMPF) was held in Brussels on 8 and 9 February 2001 and was attended by parliamentarians representing the parliaments of the Mediterranean countries participating in the Barcelona process, the national parliaments of the Member States of the European Union and the European Parliament.

The participating members welcomed the fact that this second session was being held at a time when the need for dialogue and cooperation in every area of the partnership is greater than ever, because of the various conflicts and crises affecting the process initiated at Barcelona in 1995.

The participants agreed that the Euro-Mediterranean Forum will now meet annually and will constitute a genuine forum for exchanges of views between parliamentarians of the European Union and of the Mediterranean countries, with a view to giving fresh impetus to, and developing, the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. This is why we decided to set up a permanent body consisting of Members of the European Parliament, of the national parliaments of the Member States and of the parliaments of the Mediterranean partner countries to enable work to continue between sessions.

At the Forum we focused on the three chapters of the partnership and the need to make progress with them in a dynamic, balanced and complementary manner.

Much of the discussion at the second session of the Forum also concerned Euro-Mediterranean initiatives and documents presented last year by the various European institutions and, in particular, the Common Strategy on the Mediterranean adopted by the European Council at Feira on 19 June 2000, the Commission's communication, 'Reinvigorating the Barcelona process' and the conclusions of the 4th Conference of Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers held in Marseilles on 15 and 16 November 2000.

The contributions presented by us various Mediterranean partners and the recommendations and positions adopted by the various parliaments were also presented and taken into account, including the Final Declaration of the 1st session of the Euro-Mediterranean Forum held on 27 and 28 October 1998 in Brussels.

The second session of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Forum focused on four main themes: the need for a new vision of the future for the Euro-Mediterranean region, the new common strategy of the European Union for the region, the need to impart fresh impetus to the Barcelona Process, and the Middle East conflict and peace process and their impact on the Barcelona Process.

The need for a new vision of the future for the Euro-Mediterranean region

The EMPF is in favour of establishing a comprehensive partnership based on the approach adopted in the Barcelona Declaration, taking account, in every case, of the mutual interests of the parties and setting out a genuine strategic perspective for the whole of the region.

It reminds the States which are partners in the Barcelona Process of the need to establish an external policy for the region which accords it the importance it deserves and which takes account of its geopolitical significance and of the ties created by geography and by a long shared history.

On the eve of the enlargement of the European Union, the Forum points out the need for Europe to turn to the countries of the southern Mediterranean and to strengthen their mutual cooperation in the context of the partnership;

The new common strategy of the European Union for the region

The EMPF noted the adoption at Feira on 19 June 2000 of the new common strategy for the Mediterranean region, but regrets that the partner States were not much more closely involved in drafting this common strategy.

The EMPF considers that the new strategy must lead to the establishment of an area of peace and stability based on political partnership and economic and commercial cooperation and the human and cultural dimension; it must also lead to the formation of a region of shared prosperity by means of the gradual establishment of a free-trade area between the European Union and its partners and among the partners themselves, and to better understanding between the peoples of the region and the emergence of a more active civil society.


The need to impart fresh impetus to the Barcelona Process

The EMPF reaffirmed that strict respect for human rights, individual liberties and democratic principles as fundamental elements in the creation of an area of peace, stability and sustainable economic development in the Euro-Mediterranean region is essential to the Barcelona Process.

The EMPF gave its support to the strengthening of a Euro-Mediterranean partnership in which solidarity should play a far greater role and which should be far more effective than at present. This partnership should also be based on respect for national sovereignty and on justice, mutual trust and democratic parliamentary dialogue; in this context the Parliamentary Forum intends to play a much more active role in order to counteract the excessively intergovernmental approach of the current process and to integrate to a greater extent the views of public opinion in the process.

The Forum takes the view that the progress made in the text of the Euro-Mediterranean association remains insufficient and calls on all the governments of the States which are parties to the Barcelona Process and on the institutions concerned to step up their efforts to improve financial and technical assistance, to impart fresh impetus to political cooperation and to do everything in their power to make full use of all the opportunities offered by the new MEDA II programme.

The EMPF also calls for the revised Barcelona Process not to establish any hierarchy among the three current fields for action and for the qualitative importance of social, cultural and immigration aspects to be equivalent to that assigned to economic and political aspects.


The Middle East conflict and peace process and their impact on the Barcelona Process

The Forum unanimously deplores the loss of human life and the material damage caused by the Middle East conflict. It unreservedly supports the efforts to negotiate a comprehensive, just peace in the Middle East on the basis of strict compliance with all relevant UN resolutions concerning the problems of refugees, security, borders, settlements and Jerusalem, on the basis of the principles of the Madrid Conference and the subsequent agreements concluded between the conflicting parties;

The EMPF unanimously calls for a much more active political role to be played by the European Union with a view to securing progress in the Middle East peace process. The EMPF also calls for the unconditional lifting of all restrictions on the free movement of persons and goods within, to and from the Palestinian territories, in accordance with the Oslo agreements.

The EMPF also requested that negotiations resume in the immediate future, on the basis of the progress made during the latest negotiations, and reaffirms that renunciation of the excessive use of force and of all forms of violence is an essential condition to be respected, as required by the relevant international conventions.

The EMPF stressed the need to ensure that the spirit of partnership is maintained by more frequent parliamentary meeting and recognises that a favourable development of the Middle East peace process constitutes the basis for reinforcing and reinvigorating the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.


The EMPF also examined other issues of interest to the partnership

This included calling for the lifting of the economic embargo on Iraq for humanitarian reasons and for compliance with the United Nations resolutions. It also called for the obstacles linked to the embargo on Libya to be removed, in accordance with the United Nations resolutions, so that Libya can take a full part in the Barcelona Process.

The EMPF reiterated its call for Mauritana to be able to participate as a full member in the political dialogue of the Barcelona Process. It also expressed its conviction of the need to find a solution to the problem of Cyprus which complies with the UN resolutions, and appreciates the efforts made by the Secretary-General to find a solution to the Cypriot problem.

The EMPF dedicated a large part of its proceedings to developments within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The topics that are assessed in more detail in the Final Declaration of the Second Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Forum included: The political and security partnership; the desirability of a new Euro-Mediterranean political and security association to promote stability in the region, the role of civil society in the revised Barcelona Process, and Economic and trade aspects of the Barcelona Process and the establishment of a free trade area.

The EMPF regrets that it was not possible to adopt the Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Peace and Stability at the 4th Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Marseilles and hopes that it will be adopted as soon as possible and that this Charter will develop politically and will genuinely be able to contribute to the implementation of the principles stated in the Barcelona Declaration as regards all aspects of peace and stability in the region.

The Forum also agrees on the need to broaden the agenda for political dialogue in the region to include a number of other topics relating to security, arms control, terrorism, migration, respect for human rights and the principle of the rule of law, as well as issues relating to the environment, the safety of maritime transport and combating drug-trafficking;

The EMPF expressed its agreement with the creation of a free trade area by 2010, which should involve the creation of a genuine 'common market' for all goods, capital and services. In this connection a regulatory framework and a timetable for harmonisation measures in certain priority sectors could already be established between now and 2002.

The Forum noted that foreign direct investment in the region is inadequate and encourages all the partner States and institutions concerned to increase investment constantly.

The EMPF called for regional cooperation projects to be brought into line with environmental requirements and sustainable development. Partner countries are also asked to take the necessary measures with regard to integrated management of water resources, waste disposal, critical points (polluted areas and biodiversity risks) integrated management of coastal areas and measures to combat desertification, making use of the European Union's know-how and experience.

The EMPF supports the strengthening of Euro-Mediterranean association in the social, cultural and human spheres which bring it closer to the people of the region and particularly regrets that this aspect had not been sufficiently developed in relation to the political and economic aspects of the Barcelona Process, In particular it call for account to be taken of the social impact of economic transition in the various national programmes.

The EMPF supports a new approach to issues concerning immigration and the free movement of persons. It recommends that the partner States and the European Union introduce harmonised legislation on migration flow organisation and the fight against illegal immigration, lay down temporary immigration policies, create specific visas for Euro-Mediterranean operators, assist immigrants with their projects in their country of origin and adopt a policy of integration in host countries for lawfully resident immigrants.

The EMPF stressed the vital importance of much greater and more effective financial cooperation for the implementation of the three aspects of the Barcelona Process and, accordingly, regards the € 5.350 bn MEDA II budget adopted by the Council of the European Union for the period 2000-2006 as extremely inadequate.

It also called for better management of the MEDA programme and much more decentralised cooperation with regard to financial aid, which should be aimed at achieving progress as regards democracy, good governance, the rule of law and sustainable development.

Perhaps most importantly, the EMPF adopted by consensus the decision to meet annually in future and to set up a Group to follow up the conclusions of the previous Forum, comprising one member of each parliament of the countries party to the Barcelona Process plus appropriate European Parliament representation, to operate between sessions. The EMPF also decided to accept the invitation from the Italian Parliament; the Third Forum will therefore meet in the first half of 2002 in Italy.

I would also like to underline that our main objective is to analyse developments in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership process and suggest recommendations to improve the Process. This will show our people that through our National assemblies, we can play a salient role in the process of building and consolidating Mediterranean dialogue, primarily through the furthering of associations of Euro-Mediterranean Parliaments, thus expressing the sovereign will of peoples of these shores.

In institutionalising Euro-Mediterranean inter-parliamentary dialogue we must bear in mind our responsibilities to the people we represent in democratising the parliamentary process and moreover the action that is necessary to promote an effective working relationship with social agents, non-governmental organisations and equally with youth organisations and initiatives, such as this Seminar, where our nation's future leaders receive their formation.

I extend my very best wishes to your proceedings here in Malta and thank the organisers of this meeting, the European Commission and the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, for providing me with this opportunity to share the EMPF's viewpoint with you.

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