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GAERC President Dr Dimitrij Rupel heads the EU Troika in Morocco

Dr Dimitrij Rupel, President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council and Slovenian Foreign Minister, headed the EU Troika at the meeting with the Arab Maghreb Union today in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Participating at the meeting, which was dedicated to cooperation between the European Union and Maghreb countries, were the foreign ministers of Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, which is currently presiding over the Arab Maghreb Union. The European Commission was represented at the meeting by Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner.

Minister Rupel stressed the importance of the cooperation between the European Union and the countries on the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea; this cooperation takes place within the framework of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership based on the Barcelona process. The European Union strives to improve economic conditions in the region, including the elimination of poverty, as well as working for cooperation in the area of energy and for common action to combat terrorism. The EU is interested in a “successful, stable and democratic Maghreb”, which would participate in endeavours to protect the Mediterranean Sea, to improve environmental protection, and to combat extremism and terrorism. Thus, the Mediterranean region should become an area of peace and stability, with a huge development potential and a firmly established partnership in the social and cultural areas.

Minister Rupel mentioned certain initiatives that already exist, among them the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership; within this framework, Slovenia plans to organise three important conferences during its Presidency: on the information society in Egypt, on tourism in Morocco, and on culture and cultural dialogue in Greece.

To this end, Minister Rupel pointed out the importance of intercultural dialogue, the theme of the year in the European Union, and called attention to Slovenia's initiative for the establishment of a Euro-Mediterranean university in Piran, this being an ideal opportunity to acquaint Europe with the Arab language and culture. Maghreb countries are also invited to take part in this initiative.

Regarding the French initiative for the establishment of a Mediterranean union, Dr Rupel called attention to the meeting of the Olive Group in Cyprus last week, where the EU representatives agreed that this proposal deserves further consideration and expressed their opinion that all EU Member States should be included. Slovenia's Presidency expects France to prepare corresponding materials for discussion.

Further to the nature of the relations between the European Union and Maghreb countries, Dr Rupel expressed his satisfaction that the dialogue is now more structured; regional cooperation is based on the three pillars of the Barcelona process, which are aimed at strengthening the area of political security, economic development and cooperation in the cultural and social arena. "Specific and pragmatic programmes need to be developed in these areas," added Dr Rupel.


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Date: 25.01.2008