BACKGROUND ON BARCELONA CONFERENCE
(Communicated by GPO Economics Desk)
An European Union-sponsored conference for Mediterranean Basin countries is scheduled to take place 27-28.11.95, in Barcelona, Spain. Israel’s delegation will be headed by Foreign Minister Ehud Barak.
The Barcelona Conference is a milestone in the process of integration with the Mediterranean Basin envisioned and promoted by the EU. The conference makes an attempt to create a comprehensive economic, political, and social framework between the 15 EU members and 12 countries of the Mediterranean Basin. This effort comes as part of the EU’s response to the new post-Cold War world order. The twelve Mediterranean participants are: Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Turkey, Cyprus, and Malta.
During the series of preparatory meetings between the EU Troika and the Mediterranean Basin countries the fourth of which is taking place today
(Sunday), 26.11.95 it was agreed that the EU will increase its annual pledges, consistent with its already existing five year plan, to the Mediterranean Basin by approximately 30%. The Barcelona Round will promise $6.1 billion in a variety of grants and aid to the Mediterranean Basin countries, 30% more than was promised in the earlier Cannes Round EU meeting, and $6.1 billion in loans to the region.
The preparatory meetings between the EU and the Mediterranean Basin countries began in July 1995, in order to achieve agreement on two common documents/declarations representing the goals of the EU and basin countries. The first declaration will concentrate on economic, political, and social issues, while the second will be a working paper delineating the subjects that will be treated by the forum in the future.
The EU’s idea, as related by Harry Kney-Tal, the Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Director General for Policy Planning, is to promote security, stability, prosperity, and culture in three broad spheres: political and strategic, economic, and the human or individual rights dimension. The idea behind the three-pronged strategy is to better enable the basin countries to make a transition to political, economic, and human freedoms and reforms. In the long term, the EU’s goal is to create a free trade zone with the basin in 2010 and to develop a code of behavior which the basin countries will adopt.
Michael Bavly, the Foreign Ministry’s Deputy Director General for Western Europe, in response to a question at a rcent press briefing, noted that the Barcelona Conference is not intended to replace the peace process. Regarding Syria, he said that during the conference’s preparatory meetings to negotiate the drafts of the declarations, the 12 Mediterranean Basin nations including Syria, Lebanon, and Israel sat together with the EU Troika. In a number of areas, Israel and Syria had common positions regarding the declarations.