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Speeches, 11/4/2006

Foreign Minister Tuomioja greets Civil Forum between the EU and Mediterranean countries

The message of Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland of the EU Presidency, was delivered by Ambassador Risto Veltheim at the Euromed Civil Forum held in Marrakech, Morocco, on 4-7 November, 2006. Euromed cooperation involves the EU and countries in the Mediterranean region.

Distinguished participants and members of the Civil Society,

For the first time, the Euromed NGO movement is holding the Civil Forum in a southern partner country. I wish to thank the Government of Morocco for making this possible and for hosting this important meeting in the historical town of Marrakech.

The Mediterranean region is of strategic importance to the European Union. The Euro-Mediterranean partnership, which was established by the Barcelona declaration in 1995, has become an instrument of ever increasing importance to this strategy and a solid component in the European Neighbourhood Policy.

The basic aim of this partnership is often characterised in a simple way: to achieve a common area of peace, stability and shared prosperity in the Mediterranean region. It carries three pillars, i.e. the political, social-economic as well as the cultural and human relations pillar, which are of the same importance and, in fact, largely complementary.

In the political field, the EU is convinced, that the successful conclusion of the Middle East Peace Process, and the conclusion of other open disputes in the area, are important prerequisites for permanent stabilility and prosperity in the Mediterranean region. Barcelona Process, by offering a regional framework for political dialogue and improved mutual understanding, can make a fundamental contribution to this aim.

Given its interest, it's historical and cultural ties, as well as the vicinity to the area, the Union aspires to play its full part in finding solutions to the conflicts of the Middle East region. During the conflict of Lebanon, and in the aftermath, the role of European Union was crucial in reaching the cease fire, in formulating the UN resolution 1701 and in strengthening the UNIFIL mission. Now, looking ahead for the next steps, we are more than ever convinced, that the lasting peace and security in the Middle East can only be ensured by a comprehensive settlement with a negotiated two-state solution as its core.

But the work for lasting peace in the region would not be successful without another important goal: the promotion of living conditions of the entire population and the sustainable development of the Mediterranean countries. The EU is committed to long term cooperation to assist the transition of partner-countries into modern, competitive economies. Thus, we have to accelerate our efforts to mobilise more productive investments in this region and to create a zone of free trade by 2010 in the Mediterranean area. For this purpose, trade links and south-south integration of economies should also be improved.

In addition to the political and economic action, there is a need to encourage inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue that builds mutual understanding and respect. The civil society, by bringing people together nationally and over the borders, can play a crucial role in many ways and all fields of the activities. The full participation of citizens trough active civil society is also a fundamental factor in promoting welfare, democracy and human rigths. In the Barcelona process, as elsewhere, we encourage a decentralised form of cooperation that invites to open dialogue with the civil society and creates direct contacts of all players between the Mediterranean nations.

In this spirit I want to bring to you my warmest wishes of success in your deliberations in Marrakech.







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Updated 11/4/2006

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