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2005-11-30

Partial setback for Barcelona summit

By Nazim Fethi for Magharebia in Algiers – 30/11/05

In the absence of a final common declaration, the 25 countries of the EU and their ten partners on the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea agreed on Monday (28 November) in Barcelona on an anti-terrorism code of conduct, a five-year working plan and a presidential declaration.

The presidents' declaration states their "commitment to a just and equitable resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the establishment of the two states of Israel and Palestine".

However, the 35 countries could not agree on a final common declaration containing references to terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that satisfied both Israel and Arab nations.

The European participants did commit themselves to support southern Mediterranean countries, especially in the Maghreb, to do better in combating the problem of illegal immigration.

This first summit in the history of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, launched in 1995 in Barcelona, was intended to reinvigorate the Barcelona Process for regional integration. The southern Mediterranean countries wanted more though, especially on the economic front, given that a free trade area is to be created between the two shores by 2010.

In this respect, the southern shore countries criticised the EU for concentrating on opening up to Eastern Europe to the detriment of regional co-operation with the Mediterranean countries.

As an example, Algerian minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem pointed to Poland benefiting from regional integration with the EU ten times more in a single year than the ten southern shore countries did over ten years.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a hospital in Paris, sent a message to the Barcelona summit participants to explain the many reasons that led the southern countries to give a lukewarm report on the first decade of the Barcelona Process. "," Bouteflika said.

"When the Barcelona process was being set up, Algeria was already facing terrorism that was spreading globally, but my country's message was ignored. The dialogue with the EU started timidly defining a few areas for co-operation in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and when the lives of European citizens were put in danger on European soil," he recalled.

On the economic front, Bouteflika emphasised that efforts undertaken by the southern shore countries on the long road to democracy and the construction of viable market economies integrated into a globalised economy had not received the European support needed to cope with the impact of the liberalisation policies implemented by the partnership.

The Algerian president further complained "our civil society is fed up with the growing restrictions on the circulation of people, including the key figures keeping our partnership alive…We want to see a tangible loosening of our current shackles and more freedom of movement across our borders."

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