The Barcelona Process revisited
Delivered in Plenary - 26th October 2005
As rapporteur on the European Neighbourhood Policy, I believe it is clearly in our mutual interests to strengthen ties with our southern Mediterranean partners in North Africa and the Middle East, as formally set up in the Barcelona process 10 years ago on 28 November.
Along with our US allies, this sends a clear message that we support, in this region, a strengthening of civil society, an open market economy, democratic pluralism and respect for fundamental human rights, including media freedom, independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and, in particular, women’s rights, as the previous speaker mentioned. Tunisia is an advanced country in the eyes of the Arab world in this respect. Environmental cooperation is also one of our priorities.
These countries, and in particular their growing populations, will provide growing markets for our own products. I believe that it is in the European Union’s interests to target substantial development aid through the current MEDA Programme, which, I believe, amounts to some EUR 3 billion per year, and eventually through the newly anticipated ENPI – the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument – to assist the Euromed group of countries with enhanced economic growth in order to prevent rising unemployment and rising tensions, which will in turn, from the EU security point of view, provide recruiting grounds for Islamist hardliners. We have seen that in the recent past during the Moroccan Casablanca bombings, the tragic civil war in recent years in Algeria and the rise of Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad in the occupied Palestinian territories. We must remember, of course, that the tragic Madrid bombings were carried out by Maghribi Salafists.
We must also try to prevent large, uncontrolled migrant flows to the European Union. Otherwise, this will cause a total breakdown in the good intercommunal relations we enjoy at present.
We all hope for a free trade area by 2010. The new EuroMed Assembly facilitates dialogue between traditional enemies such as Israel and the Arab world. This forum uniquely allows them to resolve their problems peacefully. Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, in my view, is a good start to putting the roadmap for peace back on the agenda. This Assembly is also a forum for the exchange of ideas between the Islamic world and the majority-Christian European Union.
I am optimistic about the spread of our democratic values in this region, with the recent elections in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon and now, even, some tentative democratic moves in this direction from Egypt.
On behalf of my political group, I strongly commend the Jäätteenmäki report to the House.