Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Third Report


SEC(02) 159

Euro-Mediterranean Partnership: Commission Communication to prepare the meeting of Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers, Valencia, 22-23 April 2002.

Legal base:
Document originated:13 February 2002
Forwarded to the Council: 15 February 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 14 March 2002
Department:Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 27 March 2002
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: 15/16 April General Affairs Council
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared

  21.1  On 23 January 2002, European Standing Committee B debated the Commission Communication on Reinvigorating the Barcelona Process[47]. Introducing the present Communication, the Commission says that the Barcelona Process[48] has become a major strategic, political and economic asset for all its 27 partners. Since it was reinvigorated in Marseilles in 2000, it has been given a strong political drive.

  21.2  The Communication is intended as a think-piece in advance of the April Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Meeting in Valencia. It reviews progress since 1995, evaluates the difficulties faced and makes sixteen proposals for further work. These proposals cover the three areas of activity ('volets') within the Barcelona Process:

  • political and security;

  • economic and financial; and

  • social, cultural and human co-operation.

It also suggests institutional changes.

  21.3  In the political and security field, the Commission advocates holding regular meetings of Political Directors and enhancing work on human rights and democracy. Concrete measures for the Partnership to undertake in the fight against terrorism are also suggested.

  21.4  In the economic field, the Commission suggests further support for the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area and for assistance with the development of South-South trade. It welcomes progress made on rules of origin and it suggests that Ministers should welcome the steps made to liberalise the services sector. Strategies should be developed for the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors and Ministers should emphasise the importance of national sustainable development strategies. The Commission supports the Presidency proposal for a financial facility for the region.

  21.5  The Commission Communication continues the Partnership's focus on social, cultural and human issues. It recommends that the Partners agree a framework regional programme in the area of freedom, justice and governance. It proposes creating a EuroMed Foundation to promote dialogue between cultures and civilisations in the region, and extending the TEMPUS higher education programme to the region. An analysis should be made of the most cost-effective way to engage civil society in developing the partnership.

  21.6  The final set of proposals deals with the institutions of the Partnership. The Commission calls on EU Member States to ratify Association Agreements within two years. It suggests increasing the role of the EuroMed Committee and enhancing economic dialogue on a thematic basis.

  21.7  Although addressed to the Council and the European Parliament, the Commission Communication is intended for all members of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, and the Mediterranean partners have received copies.

The Government's view

  21.8  The Minister for Europe (Mr Peter Hain) says that the ideas in the Communication will be discussed at the Valencia meeting, and some may make their way into the Presidency Conclusions of the meeting. He comments:

    "Overall the Government welcomes the proposals put forward by the Commission for discussion. They maintain the focus on co-operation between the 27 Partners and further work towards the creation of a free trade area. Now that the trade relationship between north and south is virtually complete (with only Syria yet to agree an Association Agreement with the EU), it is right that the focus should turn to improving the trading relationship between the Med partners. Co-operation on rules of origin and services will aid that relationship.

    "The events of 11 September have meant that greater consideration should be given to the region's security and to mutual respect in the region for the cultures and civilisations contained within it. The Commission Communication rightly focuses on the development of co-operation in these areas. It also suggested continued small steps towards further development in other areas of the political and security volet.

    "However, the UK does not agree with all the suggestions put forward by the Commission. For example, we query the need for a further level of official discussion (at the level of Political Directors). The UK considers that what is needed now within the Partnership is guarantees that issues discussed are put into action. The UK would also wish to see more detailed analysis on the proposal for a EuroMed Foundation, and wish to examine how such a Foundation should be funded. The proposal by the Commission for an investment facility or bank for the region has now been superseded by discussion at ECOFIN on 14 March which agreed an additional investment facility within the EIB [European Investment Bank] be established for the region initially, to be reviewed after one year".


  21.9  This paper is expected to be on the agenda of the 15/16 April General Affairs Council. It provides a useful insight into possible future areas of activity for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, as well as a summary of initiatives to date. Whether the Process is receiving the strong political drive referred to by the Commission is questionable. There may be an opportunity to ask the Minister whether he agrees with this statement and whether any specific proposals were endorsed at the Valencia meeting when he gives evidence to us on the Barcelona European Council on 24 April.

  21.10  We now clear this document.

47  (21492) 11381/00; see HC28-vii (2000-01), paragraph 1 (28 February 2001). Back

48  The 15 Member States and 12 Mediterranean partners take part in the Barcelona Process. The partners are: Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey. Back

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Prepared 22 April 2002