NO. 1100 DOI – 17.07.2007
- ASKS FOR PRACTICAL STEPS TOWARDS FURTHER EURO-MED INTEGRATION AND CALLS FOR AN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL FOR THE MEDITERRANEAN, A MEDITERRANEAN DEVELOPMENT BANK AND A EURO-MED BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
Malta’s Foreign Minister Michael Frendo yesterday was one of the keynote speakers at the fifth annual conference of the Euro-Mediterranean Laboratory in Milan co-opened by the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and the Prime Minister of Egypt Ahmed Nazif.
In his speech, while hailing the setting up of a Euro-Med Free Trade Area, Minister Frendo asked for other practical steps to be undertaken to further progress integration in our region. He said that while grand designs are necessary because they give us a sense of direction and discussion on such projects which should be continued and intensified, we need to build this special Euro-Med relationship on concrete action which fits within the framework of the 1995 Barcelona process seeking in the Euro-Mediterranean region a partnership covering political, security, economic, financial, social and cultural cooperation.
In this regard, Minister Frendo called for the setting up of a Mediterranean Development Bank supporting Prime Minister Prodi who had said that, while this idea had been discarded many times by the European Union, it was still the fastest way ahead. Foreign Minister Frendo also said that a Euro-Med Business Development Agency directed at Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, an initiative presented jointly by Italy and Spain at the recent Mediterranean Forum meeting in Crete, could complementing this operation of the Development Bank.
Furthermore, on a practical level, Minister Frendo said that the Euro-Mediterranean partners should focus their attention in the next five years to seek a direct positive impact on citizens. In this regard he called for the setting up an Economic and Social Council of the Euro-Med area bringing together civil society and social partners in a structure that has already proved itself in the European Union over many years. Minister Frendo had launched this idea at a keynote speech at the Osservatorio del Mediterraneo headed by EU Commissioner Franco Frattini in Rome earlier in the year at a meeting held at the Campidoglio in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. While hailing the setting up of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean with its secretariat headquartered in Malta, Minister Frendo said that the Mediterranean “misses a strong civil society dimension and the creation of an Economic and Social Council which is a necessary step for establishing a common house for civil society and for the social partners in our region.”
He said that these structures would provide the process with greater focus and visibility attracting greater investment in the region originating not only within the region itself but from the world as a whole.
Foreign Minister Michael Frendo commented that President Sarkozy’s notion of a Mediterranean Union “is worthy of serious consideration and we should seek ways in which it can be dovetailed with the realities of the European Union, its Neighbourhood Policy and the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.” The practical elements he had referred to in his address, some already in place such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, others still to materialise, he said, can be fitted within this context of a pragmatic way at arriving at a longer-term goal.
In this regard, he added, he felt that he should also showcase the Malta government-sponsored EUROMEDITI project aimed at the joint development and transfer of technology in a number of areas such as ICT, Water management and renewable energies in the Euro-Med area. He said that this was a tangible and practical example of Euro-Med cooperation in very important sectors.
Making reference to the phenomenon of illegal migration, Foreign Minister Frendo said that this phenomenon is distorting the logic of our common vision for the Euro-Med region which has to include a facilitation of travel in the region. However, Minister Frendo said, this objective cannot be achieved until illegal immigration is effectively addressed and this requires vigorous cooperation between the countries of origin, transit and destination, and a network of repatriation agreement which includes the repatriation of third country nationals.
He also spoke about Malta’s initiative in the European Union with the proposal of a pre-emptive dialogue between the European Union and the Arab League to be launched with the holding in Malta of a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the two organisations with an agenda which concentrated on areas of common interest. He said that the strengthening of such a dialogue will strengthen our relationship as neighbours sharing the same space and will help us arrive at solving even the most complex issues. He acknowledged the importance of engaging on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and commented that there has been too much suffering on both sides and that the creation of two sovereign states living in peace and security side by side remains an objective that can be achieved. “However,” Minister Frendo commented “we must also concentrate our dialogue on subjects which bring us together and which are also of urgent common interest to us all such as energy security and affordability, climate change, development, the dialogue of cultures and religions, reform and respect for human rights”.
“The Mediterranean remains vital to peace, stability, dialogue and economic development not only for the states which hug its coast but also to their neighbours and indeed to the rest of the world”, Foreign Minister Frendo emphasised.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta concluded his remarks by emphasising that, like the European Union, Euro-Mediterranean integration must be built on practical steps, sometimes small but nonetheless significant steps forward. “Together we can build the structures what will provide a framework for this integrative process, addressing the difficult challenges we face in our region. We must retain our eyes on the goals and develop a team-spirit which seeks to achieve those goals with tenacity and unyielding commitment whatever the difficulties we may encounter on the way.”