Israel is committed to the Barcelona Declaration which adopted the vision of a comprehensive partnership that will strengthen political dialogue, economic cooperation, and social, cultural and human dimensions.
Address by Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to the 9th European Union Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Meeting of Foreign Affairs
Lisbon, 6 November, 2007
In my opening words, I wish to pay tribute to all those who have contributed to the Barcelona process over the years, thus promoting Euro-Med cooperation and understanding. I wish to thank the Portuguese Presidency of the EU, and personally the Foreign Minister Luís Amado, for organizing this conference in Lisbon. Such a conference is a wonderful opportunity to increase regional understanding and cooperation, in areas which, I believe, would benefit us all.
Last night we spoke at length about the vision of peace and stability in the Middle East, mainly the creation of two nation states living side by side in peace and security. The complex situation that exists should not deter us from searching for paths that will build confidence and bring the peoples of the region closer together in order to achieve a lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors.
Israel has been a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership since its very inception. My country is committed to the Barcelona Declaration which adopted the vision of a comprehensive partnership that will strengthen political dialogue, strengthen economic and financial cooperation, and stress social, cultural and human dimensions.
Even though twelve years have passed since the beginning of the Barcelona Process, we have not achieved significant enough results. Israel has proposed many projects over the years, but we have not found full fledged partners to these projects. Unfortunately, there are those, who link the regional progress to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and by so doing, prevent progress on the regional level. This is a mistake. In order to promote regional understanding, we must rise above individual interests, or even national interests. In order to solve the conflict, we must rise above the conflict.
We must stop observing everything through the lens of the conflict – it is time to observe and shape events through the lens of what is best for our region as a whole. Do not allow the bilateral issues to deter you from promoting regional cooperation. Regional cooperation serves all of our needs, including basic needs like water, environment preservation and improvement in the quality of life. It should be stated clearly – progress on the regional level does not come instead of, but rather assists and supports, the resolving of the bilateral conflicts. It will also preserve our region and ensure a better future for us all.
The regional strategy is based on the division between the extremists and the moderates. We, the Euro-Med partners here today, must do all that we can to support and strengthen the moderates in the region, in a manner that will facilitate progress. There is a responsibility which lies on the shoulders of all the pragmatic leaders, those who are interested in coexistence, stability and the development of the region, to work together for the good of the region.
Israel welcomes the opportunity provided by the Barcelona Process, as a forum for dialogue between the countries of the region, as an opportunity to meet countries which we do not usually meet. This is a most appropriate framework for shattering stereotypes and prejudices, replacing them with bridges of confidence and cooperation between the nations of the Mediterranean. In order to realize and sustain our vision of regional peace, we need to create a supportive environment. The Barcelona Process is a unique framework, which provides the basis for the new reality we would like to create.
We welcome and look forward to concrete results in all areas. Israel still stands ready to support projects and programs for the well-being of the peoples of the region. Allow me to propose a few projects for immediate implementation.
One of the central fields for regional cooperation is the matter of dealing with natural disasters. Israel supports the Euro-Med Bridge program for the development of a Euro-Med system for the reduction, prevention and management of natural and man-made disasters. Only recently we have seen how flames in Greece caused devastation. Israel, along with additional countries, was a partner to the relief efforts. We need to develop a system of regional assistance, which will respond to such situations effectively, in real time. We should further develop this important cooperation and create a true network between civil protection agencies of the partner countries. What would be more natural than linking the entire Mediterranean basin on-line, for the sake of responding to earthquakes, fires and other disasters?
Take also, for example, the field of technological innovation. We propose to set up an exchange program, to assist the setting up of technological incubators throughout the Euro-Med partnership countries. These incubators can be a venue for transforming ideas into industrial ventures, thus benefiting the economic development of the region.
Tolerance, respect for all religions and mutual understanding are vital for the realization of our vision. The Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures in Alexandria is an institution which contributes significantly to this cause. It is important to ensure the visibility and effectiveness of this foundation. In this context, I would like to propose the setting up of a Euro-Med educational program that will spread among the young generation values of tolerance and mutual respect.
We follow closely different ideas raised for increased regional integration around the Mediterranean. In view of the increasing challenges and threats in our region, we must re-double our efforts to translate the ideas into concrete action. We must devote our efforts to the maximum and act in a manner that will show our citizens the potential and tangible benefits of this process.
We are currently engaged in a dialogue with the Palestinians in order to resolve the bilateral difficulties. This dialogue, though, must be complemented by the regional process we are promoting here today, for a better future for the entire region. These efforts are vital for the achievement of the goals of the Euro-Med partnership: peace, stability, security and prosperity.