The MPs at the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly called on the Mediterranean partner countries - Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestine Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey - to consider joining the International Criminal Court and to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty. The recommendation drawn up by the EMPA's political committee also said that the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip was an integral part of the Road Map to a political solution, but stressed the need to create the necessary conditions to help the Palestinian state become economically viable.
Presenting the political recommendation to the plenary session, Tokia SAÏFI (EPP-ED, FR), who chairs the EMPA's political committee, said that the recommendation had been adopted in committee with two abstentions, those of the Israeli delegation. The Israeli MPs had at times felt isolated and had wondered what the point of their presence was. Saïfi acknowledged that the issues dealt with were difficult and sensitive and said that a special working group on peace and security in the Middle East had therefore been set up, which will bring out a report in February.
All EU-Mediterranean countries should act jointly to counter racism, xenophobia and intolerance, including anti-semitism and islamophobia, the MPs said, adding their firm condemnation of all forms of terrorism and incitement to hatred. They worried that in the fight against terrorism some countries had adopted legislation which violated international human rights obligations. Concerned about the threat of bird flu, the recommendation included a call for greater cooperation in the fight against contagious diseases. More generally, the MPs said that over the past ten years much has been achieved but that much remained to be done. They called for greater investment in human resources and a greater involvement of civil society in the Euromed partnership, which is also called the "Barcelona Process".
In a recommendation on economic and financial issues, social affairs and education MPs welcomed the opening of talks on the liberalisation of services, but warned that these should not undermine the Mediterranean partners' negotiating position within the WTO and called for a study into the impact on employment and on the economy of the partner countries. The resolution called for greater support for small and medium sized enterprises, training and support for women, closer cooperation in telecommunications, the development of a Euro-Mediterranean transport network and the creation of a Euro-Mediterranean energy network. MPs also advocated an action plan for the fight against natural disasters and the development of environmental policies throughout the Mediterranean, especially as regards water management.
The recommendation on improving the quality of life, exchanges between civil society organisations and culture referred to the need to clean up the Mediterranean Sea, a time-table for the liberalisation of trade in agricultural products whilst promoting quality agriculture by encouraging investments in rural development, the brain drain in the Mediterranean partner countries and migration. It was decided that the culture committee will hold a special meeting early next year on the issue of illegal immigration.
"Clash of civilisations" rejected
At the opening of the EMPA's special session on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Euromed partnership, European Parliament president Josep Borrell, who is currently also the chair of EMPA, said that after ten years it was time to review the progress made. He pointed out that significant funds had been transferred by the EU but that private investment was lagging behind. Mr Borrell mentioned a number of causes for this, such as the persistence of regional conflicts, from the Middle East to the closure of the frontier between Morocco and Algeria. Another cause was the lack of a properly functioning market which could attract investment, but which required good governance. On terrorism, Borrell said that this could only be fought succesfully if the Euromediterranean partners fought it together. He firmly rejected the idea of a "clash of civilisations". And on the issue of migration, Borrell pointed out that the Mediterranean countries are in the front line, but that Europe should not and could not turn itself into a fortress. "If Europe doesn't go south, the south will go to Europe, legally or illegally."
During the debate preceding the adoption of the recommendations, Hans-Gert Poettering (EPP-ED, DE) said that "after the fall of the iron curtain in the east and the unification of Europe, the European Union now has to build bridges to the South." The Barcelona Process should focus even more on the needs of people and citizens and develop concrete initiatives in particular for young people, such as in the field of education. He hoped that the new "Financial Perspective" (the seven year budget for the EU) would contain enough financial instruments for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. "Failure to reach an agreement in time would affect many initiatives of Euromed," he warned. Mr Poettering called for closer cooperation between Europe and the Arab-islamic world "as essential in the fight against terrorism".
Hélène Flautre (Greens/EFA, FR) felt that the Euromed partnership had yielded insufficient results where the development of democracy and the respect of human rights was concerned. One of the reasons, she said, was the insufficient involvement of NGOs and parliamentarians. She also proposed that the Euromed Parliamentary Assembly should no longer be made up of three delegations - one of the European Parliament, one of EU national parliaments and one of the Mediterranean partner countries - but be composed of groupings on political lines, as in most parliamentary assemblies.
Luisa Morgantini (GUE/NGL, IT) said that the very existence of the Euromed Parliamentary Assembly was an important contribution to finding solutions for the problems in the region. Yet this contribution could only be limited, she said, in view of the scale of the problems. Meanwhile, young people in search of a better life were dying on the shores of Europe or being kept in detention centres. Ms Morgantini lamented the increase in terrorist attacks, saying that the theory of a "clash of civilisations" and the war in Iraq with its torture prisons and phosphorus bombs were all factors that only played into the hands of terrorists.
The next session of EMPA will take place at the end of March in Brussels.