Written Answers. - Barcelona Declaration.
50 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the progress, if any, being made in the Mediterranean programme as initiated by the Barcelona Conference. [22161/98]
Good progress continues to be made in giving practical expression to the declaration adopted by Euro-Mediterranean Foreign Ministers in Barcelona on 27-28 November 1995.
The Barcelona Declaration established a comprehensive and balanced partnership between the EU and Mediterranean partner countries, through strengthened and regular political dialogue, the development of economic and financial co-operation and greater emphasis on the social, cultural and human dimension. Underpinning the declaration is the EU's willingness to join with the Mediterranean countries in transforming their region into a zone of peace, stability and prosperity.
The most recent Euro-Mediterranean meeting at Foreign Minister level was held in Palermo on 3-4 June 1998. Sustained by a strong political will to revitalise the process, the Palermo meeting was widely considered to be a success. The shared assessment is that Palermo has helped to rejuvenate the Barcelona process, the momentum of which was faltering as a result of difficulties encountered in the Middle East peace negotiations.
In reviewing the state of progress in the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, account needs to be taken of the very broad scope of the activities involved. These deal with political and security issues, economic and financial questions, as well as social, cultural and human affairs. Some of the key partnership elements are as follows: 1. Political and Security aspects — the EU and Mediterranean sides have been working in partnership to prepare outline headings for a possible Stability Charter for the Mediterranean region. Discussions are still at the stage of identifying possible topics which might be included among the draft headings. The next round of discussions, which will be attended by representatives from the 15 EU member states and the 12 Mediterranean partners, will take place in Brussels later this month; 2. Economic aspects — target date of 2010 has been set for the creation of a free trade area for the Mediterranean region. This will entail the conclusion by the EU of association agreements with individual partner countries of the region. To date, association agreements have been concluded with Tunisia, Morocco, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority; 3. Financial aspects — the MEDA Regulation provides for an amount of 3.42 billion ECU by way of financial co-operation with Mediterranean partners.
The Palermo meeting has helped to prepare the ground for the next formal foreign ministerial meeting, which will take place in Stuttgart on 15-16 April 1999. Regular preparatory discussions are continuing in the Euro-Mediterranean Committee and will intensify as the Stuttgart meeting approaches. While the agenda for the meeting has yet to be finalised, the major themes are likely to be the impact of the association agreements in the context of the global economic situation, and the strengthening of co-operation between the two regions.
The Barcelona process is a unique and valuable undertaking, embracing as it does all 15 EU member states and 12 Mediterranean partners. Together with its EU partners, Ireland remains fully committed to the process and is contributing actively to the task of advancing it in concrete and practical ways.