Tampere, 28 November 2006 - The Barcelona Process has been the central framework for the relations and cooperation between the EU and the Mediterranean countries for eleven years now. "Austria has always attributed great significance to this partnership and will continue to provide active support," said State Secretary Hans Winkler today, representing Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik at the 8th Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Tampere, which is also the first meeting of foreign ministers in this format since the end of the Lebanon conflict.
"The challenges before us are comprehensive. Constant promotion of dialogue and cooperation on the basis of partnership plays an indispensable and valuable role in the realisation of our objectives such as the creation of peace, stability and prosperity, the long-term dialogue among cultures, compliance with and respect for human rights, and the fight against illegal immigration," said the State Secretary.
"In these efforts the Barcelona Process has proved its worth in the past years as a forum for open and constructive dialogue based on trust. Understanding between civilisations is the core of this partnership. However, intercultural dialogue alone is not enough: it has to lead to concrete political strategies," said Winkler. "The ongoing dialogue between politicians and academics is the basis for a forward-looking development. The integration of civil society and its further actions are, however, indispensable for its future success," continued Winkler, who in this connection also highlighted the important role of the media in terms of responsible and professional reporting.
Winkler emphasised that the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership was the only forum outside the United Nations in which Arab countries and Israel both participate. "The ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians agreed upon a few days ago is an important step in the numerous efforts to make peace a reality in this region. Violence and military conflicts must be brought to an end, and courageous decisions and feasible compromises on the way to lasting peace should now have priority. The foreign ministers' discussion on the Middle East peace process at yesterday's dinner showed that there is a new willingness in the quest for peace and for concrete steps in this direction," emphasised the State Secretary. "In recent years the EU has assumed increasing responsibility in the region - ranging from the safeguarding of the border at Rafah to financial support for the Palestinian people and the dispatch of soldiers to Lebanon. The EU continues to be willing to make an important contribution if the necessary steps towards lasting peace are taken," said the State Secretary.
The Barcelona Process offers a comprehensive concept for cooperation between the EU and the southern Mediterranean states. In addition to the EU Member States, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey are full members of the Euro-Mediterranean Process. Croatia, Libya, Mauritania and Macedonia as well as the future EU Member States Bulgaria and Romania also participated in the meeting.
Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Office of the State Secretary
Mag. Katharina SWOBODA
Tel.: ++43 (0) 50 1150-3469
Fax: ++43 (0) 50 1159-3469