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Reinvigorating the Barcelona process

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Reinvigorating the Barcelona process


To assess the current state of the Barcelona process and establish a new action framework in order to reinvigorate the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.

2) ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and European Parliament of 6 September 2000 to prepare the fourth meeting of Euro-Mediterranean foreign ministers « reinvigorating the Barcelona process » [COM(2000) 497 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


This communication forms one stage in the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership, in accordance with the European Union's common strategy on the Mediterranean adopted during the European Council meeting in Santa Maria da Feira in June 2000. It forms the foundation of the position adopted by the European Union (EU) during the meeting of Euro-Mediterranean foreign ministers in November 2000 in Marseilles.

The Commission aims to reinvigorate the relations between the European Union and the Mediterranean partners in order to achieve the goals set out in the Barcelona Declaration of 1995, namely to create an area of peace and stability based on respect for fundamental rights, to create an area of shared prosperity and to help improve mutual understanding among the peoples of the region.

The Barcelona process aims to promote the relations between the EU and the countries and territories of the Mediterranean Basin. Established in 1995, it is a regional framework bringing partners together at both technical and political level to promote and develop their common interests. This multilateral process is underpinned by a network of bilateral relations between each Mediterranean partner and the EU, embodied in Association Agreements.

Since the launch of this process, a new spirit of partnership has been built and, despite the ebb and flow of the Middle East peace process, numerous ambitious projects have been carried out to encourage cooperation. In total, the EU has mobilised nearly EUR 9 billion in grant and loan funding during the 1995-1999 period.

However, the ambitious goals of the Barcelona process have come up against several problems:

  • the difficulties encountered in the Middle East peace process have slowed the progress of the work and limited the development of cooperation;
  • the process of negotiation and ratification of the Association Agreements has been slower than expected;
  • the spirit of partnership has not always led to the expected results particularly in the area of human rights;
  • some partners have been reluctant to apply the specified economic transition policy;
  • the volume of South-South trade is still very low and the levels of investment in some countries remain below the forecasts (inadequate legal and technical adaptation, lack of transparency in trade);
  • the implementation of the MEDA programme has been hampered by procedural problems.

However, the Commission considers that the basic strategy agreed at Barcelona and the main instruments available are still valid. As a result, it intends to revitalise the Barcelona process in light of the experience gained in order to give it another chance of succeeding. Several proposals were made in this respect during the Ministerial Conference in Marseilles in November 2000.

As regards the Association Agreements, the countries of the Mediterranean Basin which have not already done this must be persuaded to rapidly conclude the negotiations. It must be guaranteed that any subsequent Association Agreement will be ratified by the Member States of the European Union within two years of signature.

In trade terms, for each country that has signed the Association Agreement, the reciprocal trade liberalisation measures that may be adopted must be examined closely and the greatest possible coherence in trade relations with the other partners must be sought. The Commission also encourages all the partners to join the World Trade Organisation and to create a free trade area between them. Any country signing an Association Agreement should undertake to conclude a free trade agreement with the other signatories of an Association Agreement within five years of its conclusion. A timetable should be established with the partners for the « single market » type harmonisation measures to be adopted in certain priority sectors (rules of origin, customs issues, standards and intellectual property). This programme should be ready for implementation from 2004.

Financially, the Commission proposes to make future financial contributions conditional on the efforts made by the partners in concluding the Association Agreements and on the necessary political and economic reforms. In addition, the granting of financial aid would depend on the progress made in democracy and human rights. Further efforts should be made to reinforce the effectiveness of the regional cooperation programmes.

In terms of political cooperation, a Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Peace and Stability should institutionalise the existing political dialogue and establish the mechanisms allowing the security and stability problems in the region to be tackled.

11. Finally, a new programme aimed at raising the awareness of both the Member States and the partner countries should be launched to improve understanding of the Barcelona process, particularly by introducing a new « Euro-Mediterranean partnership » label for the projects undertaken.

4) implementing measures

5) follow-up work

The fourth Euro-Mediterranean Conference was held in Marseilles on 15 and 16 November 2000. It brought together the foreign ministers of the fifteen Member States and of Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Malta, Morocco, Tunisia, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. Libya and Syria refused to take part. Also present were Mr Solana, High Representative for the CFSP and Secretary-General of the Council, Mr Patten, Commissioner, and, as special guests, representatives from Libya, the Arab League, Mauritania and the Arab Maghreb Union.

The Conference resulted in « formal conclusions » of the French presidency.

The ministers noted with great interest the proposals for revitalising the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership put forward by the Commission in its Communication on « Reinvigorating the Barcelona process » and the contributions made by the Mediterranean partners.

On the political and security partnership, the ministers confirmed the special importance they attached to the draft Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Peace and Stability but they decided to defer its adoption owing to the political context. However, they reaffirmed the need to reinforce the political dialogue, to deepen this in the areas of terrorism and migration and to extend this to other areas such as security, disarmament, the rule of law and human rights.

On the economic and commercial partnership, while reaffirming the objective of creating a free trade area by 2010, the participants decided to step up the dialogue on the macroeconomic environment, structural reforms and the economic liberalisation of the partners. They also underlined the importance for those countries having signed an Association Agreement with the EU of concluding free trade agreements amongst themselves within five years and of developing the initiatives contributing to attaining that objective, including the introduction of diagonal cumulation between countries with identical rules of origin and committed to concluding a free trade agreement between themselves. The emphasis was placed on the value of establishing an indicative timetable for the adoption of harmonisation measures in certain priority sectors, enabling partner countries to benefit fully from the Euro-Mediterranean market.

As regards the social, cultural and human partnership, the ministers recommended taking greater account of the social effects of the economic transition in national programmes by placing the emphasis on training, employment, professional requalification and the reform of education systems. They advocated building up existing programmes in the cultural area, such as Euromed Heritage and Euromed-Audiovisual, and also launching Euromed-Human Sciences. In addition, they recommended intensifying dialogue on migration and human exchanges. The preparation of a regional programme in the field of justice and home affairs was also recommended. Finally, the ministers encouraged players from civil society to take a full part in the regional programmes.

On financial cooperation, the participants advocated efficient financial cooperation targeted towards the major challenges of the partnership through the MEDA programme. This instrument must be closely linked to the implementation of reforms initiated under the Association Agreements and must take account of the special characteristics of each partner.

In addition, the ministers recommended strengthening the subregional dimension of the partnership by encouraging the introduction of development and economic integration initiatives between the countries and territories of the south side of the Mediterranean.

Finally, the ministers decided to establish a communication and information programme and a Euro-Mediterranean label intended to increase public awareness in the partnership region.

Last updated: 31.05.2006