Ref. :  000022318
Date :  2005-11-21
Language :  English
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Speech by the President at the opening of the extraordinary session of the EMPA

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow parliamentarians,

I should like first of all to thank President Radi for his hospitality and for his invaluable help in enabling this extraordinary session to be held in Rabat.

Thanks to him, we shall be the only institution celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Barcelona Process in the South.

I should like to take this opportunity to welcome Mr Federico Mayor Zaragoza, the UN Secretary-General's personal representative for the 'Alliance of Civilisations' and a special guest at our meeting.

We in the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly are the children of the Barcelona Process. We are the parliamentary dimension of that process. By virtue of the nature of our duties, our debates can and must be more open, more transparent and more truthful.

So let us make use of our special status to play a more important role in the process now beginning, which I shall call 'Barcelona 2'.
I hope that our debates will be fruitful and enable us to send a clear message to the Heads of State and Government at the Barcelona Summit, which the EMPA has been invited to attend.

Ten years after Barcelona '95, the time has come to take stock. Let us take this opportunity to draw lessons from the past and apply them in the future.

At political level, unfortunately, conflicts persist and they are a barrier to development.

At economic level, the gap between the two shores of the Mediterranean is growing wider every day.

The Mediterranean marks a frontier of inequality in the world. Nowhere else can such vast disparities in income be found at such close quarters. During the decade from 1994 to 2004, the per capita GDP of the Fifteen more than doubled, and is now in excess of 30,000 dollars. During the same period, in the southern Mediterranean, per capita income increased from slightly less than 5000 dollars to slightly more than 5000 dollars. In the ten new Member States of the Union, it increased from 6000 to almost 15,000 dollars.

Nevertheless, there has been a substantial transfer of public funds from Europe. Around 3000 million euro per year is provided in assistance under the MEDA programme and in the form of EIB loans.

The problem is, however, that this public assistance has not been matched by private investment.

Why not? There are many reasons, but allow me to outline just two of them.

Firstly, there is the persistence of conflicts of different kinds, ranging from the situation in the Middle East, to the closure of the frontier between Morocco and Algeria.

Secondly, there is no proper framework for bringing investment in. This would require good governance, and good governance is linked to political reform and democracy.

We do not wish to tell people what to do. What we want to see is a Mediterranean region based on fair and efficient conditions in both the economic and political fields.

We are meeting here today to map out the future. It is vital to rethink and remodel the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. Let me say a few words on this subject.

First of all, the Euro-Mediterranean partnership cannot continue to be a regional policy. It must become a global policy.

In fact, all the challenges facing the 20th century can be found concentrated in the Mediterranean: terrorism, immigration, the environment, access to knowledge, and so on.

We can and must overcome those challenges together. Many things unite us. The Mediterranean is a living reality.

Secondly, in order to fight terrorism we must consolidate democracy. Terrorism has struck on both sides of the Mediterranean. In Madrid, in London, in Casablanca, in Djerba, in Sharm El-Sheikh and now in Aman.

As it pursues its deadly aims, it is clear it cares nothing either for the religion or the skin colour of its victims.

This is yet another reason why we as parliamentarians must reject outright and once and for all the arguments of those who claim that this is a 'clash of civilisations'.

The use of special powers, restrictions on the free exercise of civil and political rights, the outlawing of political parties which have accepted democratic rules and the rule of law, attacks on individual freedoms - none of these is an adequate response.

We can only fight terrorism if we work together. At the Barcelona Summit, the Heads of State and Government are due to adopt a code of conduct on fighting terrorism along the lines proposed by our Committee on Political Affairs.

Thirdly, we must pay serious attention to migratory flows

The European dream may have stalled within the Union itself, but the EU continues to nourish the dreams of the millions who wish to emigrate there.

The Mediterranean countries are on the front line. The countries of the south have to cope with the fact that a part of their population wishes to emigrate. They also have to deal with the wave of migration from the populations of the sub-Saharan countries.

Europe must not - and cannot - be a fortress, as the European Union Culture Ministers affirmed in Budapest last Saturday. It would be contrary to its values and to its own interests.

There are those who believe that a new wall - the Mediterranean wall - will protect them. They are completely mistaken. 'If Europe will not go to the South, the South will come, illegally or clandestinely, to Europe'.

The problems of Lampedusa, Ceuta and Melilla are not Italian, Spanish or Moroccan problems. They are Euro-Mediterranean problems. Also and above all they are the human dramas produced by a neglected Africa.

Our response must be a collective one. It must be based on respect for all. And the burden of the cost must not fall on those who are closest to the problem.

The draft resolutions drawn up by our Committee on Culture and by the Barcelona Summit are a step in the right direction and we should support their main points: partnership with countries of origin and transit in the field of illegal immigration; a European strategy on legal immigration; eradication of the main causes of illegal immigration, which are for the most part economic; and respect for international obligations.

A European immigration policy can only be effective if it goes hand in hand with a series of national policies to help immigrants to integrate.

Europe must welcome immigrants. It must welcome them and help them to integrate by offering them the means move up the 'social ladder'.

This debate is an integral part of the general debate on the European social model. To deny this is to refuse to see the facts.

Fourthly, protecting the environment is another of the major objectives of our partnership.

The Mediterranean has 191 UNESCO world heritage sites, yet a diagnosis of the regions environmental situation is truly alarming.

One of the most urgent problems is the shortage of water. The excessive growth in water consumption will in future give rise to still more serious crises: in 2000, 45 million people were faced with extreme water shortages, while by 2025 that number will have risen to 63 million. By the same year, one in three Mediterranean countries will be using up more than 50% of the annual volume of renewable natural resources available to it.

Our Committee on Culture has also drawn attention to this situation. The Barcelona Summit will set the target of clearing up pollution in the Mediterranean by 2020. This is just as well, given that - to mention but one figure - 60% of urban waste water is discharged into the sea without any prior treatment.

Fifthly, access to knowledge is a basic necessity.

Without access to education, there can be no development, no social justice, no equal opportunities and no gender equality.

Over the last ten year, little progress has been made, precisely at a time when when new information technologies have been emerging all around us.

The Barcelona Summit will make this one of its priorities. The aim is to achieve the Millennium Goals. The summit will put forward deadlines, particularly for literacy and access to education.

As things stand, unfortunately, we have a lot of ground to make up, as is illustrated by two examples:

Firstly, unless considerable efforts are made, 5.7 million children will still not be in school in Arab countries by 2015. The target is zero.

Secondly, in 2005 49% of women in Arab countries are illiterate, as against 27% of men.

Our desire to establish a genuine University of the Mediterranean and a Euro-Mediterranean Scientific Research Fund is a step in the right direction.

These initiatives would help to prevent the brain drain from going any further.

From North to North (Europe to North America) and East to West (from our eastern neighbours to the EU) the brain drain has changed course and is now flowing from South to North (from Africa to Europe).

So how should we react if we are to revitalise the Barcelona Process?

The first and most important way of doing so is to restore a proper balance to North-South trade.

The statistics speak for themselves.

Trade relations are still extremely one-sided. Trade with the Mediterranean countries accounts for less than 7% of EU external trade; trade with the EU for close to 50% of the Mediterranean countries' external trade.

Disregarding the oil-producing countries, the Union has a large trade surplus with the Mediterranean countries. The trade deficit of those countries stood at 15.621 billion dollars in 1990 and had risen to 29.080 billion dollars by 2003.

With a view to rectifying these imbalances, a 'road-map' enabling the free trade area to be brought into being by 2010 is a good idea.

This is what the Barcelona Summit is calling for in its declaration, with the support of our Committee on Economic Affairs, namely the liberalisation of trade in agricultural products, the liberalisation of services and the creation of a Euro-Med energy market, with the possible conversion of the FEMIP into a Euro-Mediterranean Development Bank.

Secondly, by promoting South-South trade.

We all know that trade between the southern Mediterranean countries is all but non-existent, standing at no more than 4.4% in 1995 and 5% in 2003.

Why is this so?

Because of the persistence of regional conflicts, as I said at the start of this address.

In the Middle East, a singificant step forward has been taken with the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. But a long road strewn with obstacles still lies ahead.

There have been other encouraging signs over recent days. In Rafah the border with Egypt is to be opened under the Palestinian-Israeli agreement. This is an extremely important development.

As has been acknowledged by both sides, the EU has played a positive role in this process. The Union will now deploy a border assistance mission, starting next week.

It is clear, however, that we need to go further. For the road-map to regain its full meaning, both parties need to prove that there is a genuine political will to move forward.

Is this possible when our Assembly was not even able to meet in Ramallah owing to a lack of the necessary political will on both sides?

Our role as parliamentarians includes promoting all civil society iniatives aimed at bring the parties together. There is no lack of such initiatives. A large number of men and women have made a firm commitment to such action. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the work carried out by Mr Radi as chair of the Working Party on the Middle East, whose conclusions should be submitted to us at our next meeting.

Economic confidence can only take hold if political confidence is restored.

Thirdly, with a view to reinvigorating the Barcelona Process, good use should also be made of the opportunities offered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

Ten years ago, the ENP did not even exist. It now covers 16 neighbours, including nine Mediterranean countries.

These figures are a reflection of the new structures being developed around the EU and of the Union's power of attraction.

Some see the ENP as a development that will water down the Mediterranean partnership. I take the opposite view, believing that it can help us make this new approach more specifically Mediterranean.

The consolidation of bilateral aspects within the framework of the ENP should enable us to strengthen our multilateral framework.

Lastly, we must play to the full our role as a parliamentary assembly and make really practical use of all the opportunities to give a political impetus to Euro-Mediterranean relations that present themselves.

We must now lay the arrangements for dialogue between our assembly and the Ministerial Conference. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership needs to be given political structures and democtratic legitimacy.

The EMPA is intended to be a discussion forum, which is as it should be, but it must be a forum in which the real problems are discussed in an open manner, without any of the reserve and secrecy that characterise diplomatic conferences. Our open approach to dialogue will prove that ours is a mature project.

As a general rule, calls for reform are first voiced and given substance within parliamentary assemblies. This places us one step ahead of governments, and we should take good advantage of this situation.

At the same time, our assembly should be able to carry out election observation missions within the framework of a revitalised partnership.

This would enable it to provide support to countries attempting to consolidate their governmental systems.

The task facing us is a major one, and I hope that I can count on each and every one of you to contribute fully to meeting our objectives.

Many thanks and best wishes for the work that lies ahead.

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