As we approach its tenth anniversary, the Euro-Med Partnership remains the only international forum where Israel sits at the same table with all its immediate neighbors.
Statement by Silvan Shalom, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel to the Euro-Med 7th Ministerial Conference
Luxembourg, 30-31 May 2005
Luxembourg Foreign Minister and EU President Jean Asselborn,
Esteemed Colleagues from the European Union and the Mediterranean Countries,
Mr. Solana, Ms, Ferrero-Waldner,
By bringing together the countries of Europe and the Mediterranean, the Barcelona Process has created a framework for promoting economic development, stability and peace in our region, of unparalleled potential. Through the Barcelona Process, partnerships and dialogue between the member states have been greatly enhanced, while institutions and projects designed to foster understanding and exchange across our many cultures have multiplied.
The Euro-Med Partnership remains the only international forum where Israel sits at the same table with all its immediate neighbors – in itself a worthy achievement and a precedent which should be followed elsewhere. Yet, as we approach the tenth anniversary of the Barcelona Declaration, it is clear that the Euro-Med Partnership has yet to realize its full potential. Too often, where regional cooperation has been on offer, we have heard the old excuse that such cooperation can not proceed until the Middle East peace process is completed.
Of course, the effort to bring peace to the Middle East has always been relevant to the Barcelona Process; progress towards peace will no doubt help strengthen the Euro-Med Partnership. But it was one of the key insights of the originators of the Barcelona Process that this relationship is a two-way street: progress in building the Euro-Med Partnership can also help strengthen the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
This is as true today as it was ten years ago. The election of Abu Mazen has opened a new opportunity for progress towards peace. All interested parties – including every country represented here today – must do their utmost to support and strengthen responsible Palestinian leadership, so that this opportunity will not be missed.
The Euro-Med Partnership offers us a framework to do just that – to help strengthen the moderates and weaken the extremists, expand constituencies for peace, and build the necessary critical mass of public support for further progress. The Partnership can serve as a catalyst for the development of economic, scientific and other cooperation between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Arab countries in the region. Several initiatives in this context have already been launched, such as the recently concluded accumulation agreement between Jordan, Israel and the EU, as well as joint projects between Israel, the PA and the EU in the fields of energy, transportation and business entrepreneurship.
As we prepare for the tenth anniversary celebrations and in the spirit of our shared commitment to make the Barcelona Process more visible and more results-oriented, we call on this forum to further develop CBMs and adopt new programs in the field of technological cooperation and education to tolerance and pluralism. Both the substance and the symbolism of growing cooperation between Israel and its Mediterrranean neighbours, can make a profound contribution to the effort to bring violence to an end, and create patterns of partnership and dialogue which will strengthen both the peace process and the Euro-Med Partnership at one and the same time.
Israel has long called on our Arab neighbors to normalize relations with us, and we do so here again today. There are some who see this as a “prize” for Israel, but this is mistaken. The real and crucial benefit of the normalization process we seek will be felt within the Arab world itself, and the Palestinians in particular. This is our goal, and I am sure that it is one shared by everyone here today. The hesitation, passivity and unrealistic benchmarks set by some Arab leaders on this issue, only serve to strengthen the extremists, at the expense of every one else.
This is a time of opportunity and hope for the Euro-Mediterranean region. Each and every one of us here has the power – and the responsibility – to help guide our region towards the peace and stability our people yearn for. The Euro-Med Partnership provides us with tools that can help realise this goal. We must seize the present opportunity to ensure positive change, to ensure that the moderates and their vision, prevail over the extremists. In so doing we will help bring into reality, the Barcelona vision of true Euro-Med partnership, for the benefit and well-being of all our citizens.