Wien, 27. May 2003 Press release

Ferrero-Waldner: great importance attached to dialogue with the EU's neighbouring states in the Mediterranean region

27.05.2003

Minister for Foreign Affairs in favour of establishing a Euro-Mediterranean Foundation

Vienna, 27 May 2003 - The Dialogue between Cultures and Civilisations formed the focus of the second day of the informal conference of the Foreign Ministers of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. Besides the 15 existing EU Member States and their neighbouring states south and east of the Mediterranean, the ten future EU Member States are also participating for the first time in this Euro-Med Conference in Crete.

In her speech to the conference Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner emphasised the importance of dialogue to cooperation in the Euro-Mediterranean area: "Austria's commitment to this issue stems from our conviction that it is inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, first and foremost, that enables the integration of minorities", stated the Foreign Minister, adding that in this context special emphasis should be placed on Islam and the Arab world. Austria, with the support of the European Commission, had already organised a Euro-Med conference last year on the pivotal role of the media in disseminating information about foreign cultures and religions. Furthermore, a Conference of Imams will shortly be held in Graz to discuss future perspectives of Islam in Europe. "We have to find platforms for dialogue", stated Ferrero-Waldner, "and it is here that intellectual, cultural and personal exchange plays an essential role in enhancing understanding between the EU and its neighbouring states around the Mediterranean."

"It is important that we reach agreement on guiding principles and visible initiatives for the Dialogue between Cultures", said the Foreign Minister in concluding her address. In this context Ferrero-Waldner declared herself in favour of establishing a Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for promotion of the Dialogue between Cultures and Civilisations, which should function as an interface for the building of contacts between the regions.