Press Release


EPP-ED Bureau: Options for the future of the European Neighbourhood Policy


EPP-ED Group Bureau Meeting<BR>
l-r: Alain Le Roy, French Ambassador for the 'Union for the Mediterranean' Initiative, Ioannis Varvitsiotis MEP (EPP-ED, Greece), Franck Debié, Executive Director of the Fondation pour l'Innovation politique, Abdl Ahad Gamal el Din, Head of the Parliamentary Committee of the National Democratic Party (NDP) in the Egyptian Assembly, and Panayiotis Demetriou MEP, Head of the Cypriot Delegation of the EPP-ED Group<BR>
The Southern dimension of the EU's Mediterranean Policy is currently hitting the headlines not least the political and humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Various proposals put forward by European leaders such as Nikolas Sarkozy and his idea of a Mediterranean Union have provoked lively discussions. In Nicosia, Cyprus, 60 members of the Bureau of the EPP-ED Group are meeting with representatives of the countries of the region in order to exchange views on these important issues.

Joseph Daul MEP, Chairman of the EPP-ED Group in the European Parliament, opened the meeting by warmly welcoming the participants, in particular Members of the Democratic Rally, the sister party of the EPP. Mr Daul noted that the meeting coincides with worrying developments in the South Eastern Mediterranean; Political instability in the Lebanon, and ongoing troubles in Gaza. The EPP-ED Group plays a major role in the area and benefits from a wealth of experience in the form of a number of MEPs with excellent political connections.

Nicos Anastasiades, Chairman of the Democratic Rally (DISY), expressed his delight in welcoming the Members of the EPP-ED Group to Cyprus. "Euro-Mediterranean Policy is a huge challenge", he stressed. A challenge for transforming the European vision of Democracy and the European Common Market into a motor of reform for the region as a whole. This is the big advantage of the EU; a driving force which motivates and provides an impetus for change.

The reform of the Barcelona Process was the subject of the presentation of Youssef Amrani, Director-General of the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first 10 years of the Process have been relatively positive. "We mustn't forget the 'ultimate' aims: creating a zone of peace and prosperity to bridge the differences between the North and South Mediterranean", he stated. But there are a number of factors which continue to block progress such as the absence of political will among certain key players, continuing conflicts, delays in the reform process and economic barriers. Rather than reforming the Barcelona process, we have to re-launch it to recapture its original dynamism.

Tokia Saïfi MEP, Chairwoman of the Committee on Political Security and Human Rights of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, talked about the failure of the Barcelona Process and put this down to a number of factors, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war against terrorism

"Egypt supports the European Neighbourhood Policy in so far as it strengthens Euro-Mediterranean cooperation", said Abdi Ahad Gamal El Din, Head of the Parliamentary Committee of the National Democratic Party in the Egyptian Assembly. European Neighbourhood Policy must not however replace the Barcelona Process.

"Can the creation of a European Commonwealth be another step in the European Neighbourhood Policy?", asked Ioannis Varvitsiotis MEP, Head of the Greek Delegation in the EPP-ED Group and Member of the Delegation to the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly. This could be an alternative for some countries which face difficulties in joining the EU. These countries could enjoy economic prosperity but not all privileges and burdens of full EU Membership.

The idea of a Mediterranean Union was raised by Alain Le Roy, French Ambassador to the Union for the Mediterranean Initiative. This Union is a project based one, he noted, such as environment and water supply, energy and infrastructures, civil protection, justice and home affairs issues. It is a process of cooperation rather than integration. But the Barcelona Process and the European Neighbourhood Policy remain central.

For further information:
Theo Georgitsopoulos, EPP-ED Press Service, Tel: +32-475-750566