The European Scrutiny Committee has made further
progress in the matter referred to it and has agreed to the following
REINVIGORATING THE BARCELONA
Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament to prepare the fourth meeting of Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers entitled: Reinvigorating the Barcelona Process.
||Foreign and Commonwealth Office
|Basis of consideration:
||Minister's letter of 24 November 2000
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 9 (1 November 2000) and HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 10 (15 November 2000)
|Discussed in Council:
||15-16 November 2000
||For debate in European Standing Committee B, together with the ECA Special Report on the programme of assistance to Palestinian society (see paragraph 4 below)
1.1 The Commission Communication was intended
as a "think piece" ahead of the Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial
meeting in Marseilles on 15-16 November. We considered it on 1
November, when we concluded that it provided a useful overview
of the various activities which the EU is pursuing in its relations
with countries "to the south and east" of the Mediterranean.
We expressed concern then that the initiatives launched should
not be neglected by future Presidencies, allowed to linger on,
taking up funds and precious time, but to little effect.
1.2 On 6 November,
the Minister sent us an agenda for the meeting in Marseilles.
It would be covering all three chapters of the Barcelona Process:
political and security; economic and financial; human, social
and cultural. The focus would be on proposals for speeding up
movements towards free trade, particularly between southern Mediterranean
countries, and single-market type harmonisation of rules of origin
The Minister's letter
1.3 The Minister has now provided us with
an account of the meeting. He recalls that it took place in difficult
circumstances. Syria and Lebanon stayed away in protest at Israeli
action in the Middle East. Yemen, Mauritania and the Arab Maghreb
Union were present as observers and the Libyan Foreign Minister
attended as a "special guest of the Presidency", as
at the previous formal Ministerial meeting.
1.4 Inevitably, events in the Middle East
dominated the political discussion, but the Presidency successfully
ringfenced this topic, allowing working sessions on 16 November
to focus on the EuroMed agenda. An extra session on the Middle
East Peace Process (MEPP) was added straight after the formal
opening ceremony, with discussion continuing over dinner with
only Ministers present. The Palestinian Authority (PA), Israel,
Jordon and Egypt made strong but measured statements expressing
deep concern about the current situation and calling for an end
to the violence and a resumption of formal negotiations. Both
the Palestinians and the Israelis expressed appreciation for the
help and support the EU has given to the peace process.
1.5 The Minister continues:
"Looking to the future,
Ministers agreed on the need to keep building political dialogue
and co-operation among the 27 partners. The main political issue
was to have been the adoption of the 'Charter for Peace and Stability',
providing for political and security co-operation between the
27 partners. As you are aware, the current political situation
meant this was not possible but we hope that work towards this
goal will resume when the political situation permits.
"At the morning session on 16 November discussion
of the economic chapter focused on the importance of providing
new impetus towards the Process's key goal in this area: a Euro-Mediterranean
Free Trade Area by 2010. Ministers generally agreed that partners
needed to do more to liberalise their economies and make them
more attractive to foreign investment, including agreeing free
trade agreements amongst themselves as well as with the EU. In
this respect, the announcement that Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and
Tunisia were planning to create a sub-regional free trade area
was particularly welcomed. For its part, the EU needed to ratify
Association Agreements more quickly. The UK pressed particularly
for more generous agricultural access to EU markets."
1.6 According to the Minister, the EU expressed
its aspiration that MEDA funds would be more closely linked to
the Association Agreements with EuroMed partners. He adds that:
"Discussion of the social,
human and cultural chapter revealed broad agreement that co-operation
had to be made more effective. This should include involving civil
society and developing, as the Commission has suggested, two new
regional programmes in 2001: on social and JHA issues. The JHA
programme would tackle organised crime, judicial administration
and migration, including the social inclusion of lawful migrants
to the EU. Specific proposals for reinvigorating the chapter (in
addition to those in the conclusions) included a meeting of health
ministers next year (Italy), a summit on the information society
in 2003 (Tunisia) and a 'Year of the Mediterranean' in 2002 (Morocco)."
1.7 Summing up, the Minister says:
"In our view the meeting
was a successful, and useful, stocktake of the Barcelona Process.
The fact that Ministers were able to discuss all aspects of Barcelona,
at a tense period in the Middle East, is a tribute to the importance
of the Process and to the French Presidency's handling of the
Ministerial. Overall, Ministers generally took the view that,
while the Process had some useful achievements to its credit,
renewed impetus was needed if it was to stay on track for its
Views of the European Parliament
1.8 European Voice of 25-31 January
2001 reported that MEPs would be launching a "scathing attack"
on EU efforts to promote peace and prosperity in the Mediterranean
region, saying that they were ineptly run and largely ineffective.
Only one of the objectives of the Barcelona Process had got off
the ground the establishment of a free trade area. The
French socialist MEP, Sami Naïr is quoted as saying that
the loosening of trade barriers had been lucrative for European
business, and that the EU's financial contribution represents
less than one-thirtieth of the advantages which Europe derives
from the free trade area.
1.9 In January, Mr Solana, the Secretary
General/High Representative said that the common strategies were
too broadly defined to be effective and lacked the sharpness needed
to be useful for the European Union's internal purposes. He recommended
that in future they should be internal European Union policy documents.
The House of Lords Common Foreign and Security Policy Sub-Committee
is conducting an enquiry into the Common Strategy on the Mediterranean
and expects to report in March.
1.10 We believe that the time has come
for a re-assessment of the EU's strategy on the Mediterranean,
the Euro-Med Partnership and the programme of assistance to Palestinian
society which we consider elsewhere in this Report.
We question whether the substantial sums committed to assisting
Palestinian society are likely to be effective in achieving the
EU's objectives or whether these should be tackled by different
means, with aid commitments reduced to a more realistic scale.
We also question whether the EU should be making substantial aid
available to countries bordering on the Mediterranean, while at
the same time not wishing to be more generous in granting access
for their agricultural products to the EU market. In addition,
we ask why EU Association Agreements are not ratified more quickly.
1.11 In September, Egypt, supported by
Tunisia, expressed concern that the Euro-Med relationship was
unbalanced, with the EU dominant. The Minister does not tell us
whether these concerns were satisfactorily dealt with at Marseilles.
Also, we were aware that the Charter for Peace and Stability had
broken down after acrimonious exchanges between the Israelis and
Palestinians. Is signature of the Charter a worthy goal, but over-ambitious?
1.12 The Marseilles Ministerial meeting
agreed that renewed impetus was needed to re-invigorate the Barcelona
Process. According to the Minister, several specific proposals
were put forward. Does the Government believe that these are sufficient,
or does the relationship need to take a different direction, particularly
with the breakdown in the Middle East Peace Process? Is it realistic
to expect progress with the current membership of the partnership,
or should this be reviewed?
1.13 We recommend that the issues we
have outlined above, and others which are likely to be dealt with
in detail in the House of Lords report on the Common Strategy,
should be debated in European Standing Committee B, after the
Lords Committee has reported. The debate should address European
Union policy on the Euro-Med partnership and assistance to the
Middle East. This document should, therefore, be debated together
with the Special Report by the European Court of Auditors on the
programme of assistance to Palestinian society which we consider
elsewhere in this Report.
1.14 Our Reports on the Mediterranean
Common Strategy and the Charter for Peace and Stability should
be tagged to the debate.
10 (21492) 11381/00; see headnote to this paragraph. Back
14778/00; see paragraph 4 of this Report. Back
- ; see HC 23-xx (1999-2000), paragraph 10 (7 June 2000) and HC
23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 7 (1 November 2000). Back