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Speech by Jean Asselborn at the 7th Euro-Mediterranean ministerial conference in Luxembourg on 31 May 2005

Date of Speech : 31-05-2005

Place : Luxembourg

Speaker : Jean Asselborn

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

Event : VIIth Ministerial Euro-Mediterranean Conference

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you to Luxembourg for the 7th Euro-Mediterranean ministerial conference, which is taking place at a particularly important time in our common journey.

Indeed, on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration and during this year of 2005, which was declared the Year of the Mediterranean at our last meeting in The Hague, the Euro-Mediterranean partnership finds itself at a crossroads.

Launched in 1995 in a context of hope and peace, our partnership has seen some very difficult times over the past ten years. But our dialogue has never ceased.

In 1995, through a major political initiative and by common agreement, we decided to combine our efforts to help the spirit of solidarity and cooperation take root in the Mediterranean.

This was an innovative concept which, in the context of the post-Cold War period and successive enlargements, was to prove central in consolidating our links of solidarity and in supporting the major changes that have affected our region.

Our common ambition was to identify together the great political, economic and social challenges faced by the Euro-Mediterranean region. The Barcelona Declaration was born of this common vision and this sense of shared responsibility.

Today, this fundamental and unique text has not lost any of its urgency. More than ever, it constitutes the frame of reference for cooperative relations and links of solidarity between the European Union and Mediterranean partner countries.

After a decade of partnership, the time has come to ask ourselves what has been accomplished and what lessons we should draw for the future.

Together, we need to draw up an honest assessment of what has been achieved but also of the failings of our partnership in order to bring about the necessary improvements.

We need to redefine our actions and to extend their range, while reviving the spirit that reigned in 1995 when the Barcelona Declaration was adopted.

In ten years of partnership, we have succeeded in institutionalising our dialogue, at both bilateral and regional level.

A solid and regular framework of ministerial meetings will reinforce dialogue and cooperation in the essential areas of industry, trade or communication and information technologies, to name but a few.

With the launch of the neighbourhood policy, the European Union decided to give particular and priority attention to its nearest neighbours, with whom it has already set up the necessary contractual framework. This policy does not replace the Barcelona process, which remains a major political and economic asset, but rather it aims to reinforce this process, thanks to action plans negotiated within the institutional framework set up by the Euro-Mediterranean association agreements.

Similarly, the European security and defence policy is a new deal which can reinforce the first chapter of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. The political and security dialogue has intensified. It must be made more efficient. The new perspectives in view of an overall political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are fundamental in this respect.

The inauguration in Alexandria last April of the Anna Lindh Foundation was a decisive stage in the implementation of the social, cultural and human partnership of the Barcelona Process.

The geographical location of this Foundation in a partner country on the left bank of the Mediterranean is, in itself, of great symbolic value, favouring the participation of the entire civil society in the partnership. I would like to congratulate the Executive Director of the Anna Lindh Foundation, Mr Schöfthaler, who is here today, for all his efforts, together with the Luxembourg Presidency, the Egyptian and Swedish authorities and the European Commission, to ensure that this joint institution saw the light of day.

The holding of the first plenary session of the Euro-Mediterranean parliamentary assembly in Cairo in March 2005 is another example of progress made within the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.

As a parliamentary institution of the Barcelona Process with consultative powers, this Assembly is helping reinforce the visibility and transparency of the process and, consequently, bring the Euro-Mediterranean partnership closer to the interests and expectations of public opinion. It also meets the requirements of democratic legitimacy claimed by our people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

After a decade of partnership, we must note that the efforts made on either side of the Mediterranean have not always met our expectations. Our region continues to face many challenges that we must meet together. Therefore, we must show increased political willingness to develop the necessary common responses to establish a zone of peace, stability and prosperity in the Mediterranean region.

The effectiveness of the partnership could be increased if South-South integration was more truly dynamic, in particular through the implementation of the Agadir agreement, which requires our full attention. In the absence of a large southern market, our efforts will not be recompensed at their true value.

Similarly, education and increased literacy levels, economic reforms and the increased involvement of civil society in the development of the partnership should be part of our priority objectives.

It is only by combining our respective efforts that we can get around the difficulties faced by the Euro-Mediterranean region today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As political leaders during this year 2005, Year of the Mediterranean and the 10th Anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration, we are called on to face the challenges of modernisation and reform to meet together the expectations of our populations.

Thank you for your attention.

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