(Only the version actually delivered is authentic)
We, the Foreign Ministers of the Mediterranean EU Member States, gathered in Taormina (Italy) on 15-16 December 2008 for the 6th Olive Group Meeting. We had an open and comprehensive discussion on issues of particular relevance for the Mediterranean EU Member States and explored possible areas of cooperation.
In particular, we recognized the need for a coordinated approach in order to make the Mediterranean perspective more visible within the European Union’s policies and actions.
Inspired by the positive experience gained through our past meetings, we therefore agreed to further improve our working methods in order to make the Olive Group gatherings an opportunity to create a real cooperation and adopt joint action. Some horizontal topics are indeed of particular relevance and require a specific and stronger initiative. To give this forum a real added value, we will beef up our coordination in the areas of our common concern whilst, at the same time, preserving the informal character of the Group.
We had a fruitful debate on the perspectives of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). We reiterated our support for the Eastern Partnership, and underlined the need for a tailor-made approach based on each country’s needs and ambitions. The Union for the Mediterranean and the Eastern partnership are not competing projects, as they rise from the same need and pursue similar goals. It is also important to develop cooperation with the Black Sea Synergy, which is the natural link with Turkey, Russia and the Eastern Dimensions. Consequently, we stressed that a comprehensive policy towards all our neighbours is needed, both in terms of political attention and of financial resources. In order to truly strengthen ENP, we emphasized the value of real co-ownership – one of the building-block of this policy. We need to encourage the participation of partner countries to the shaping of the policy, and to focus on issues of common concern to all neighbours, such as visas, energy and improved economic cooperation and investment attraction.
We recognized the crucial role of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in fostering an integrated and prosperous Euro-Mediterranean region. Essential steps in this direction will be the quick establishment of well-functioning institutions, and a steady implementation of the priority projects agreed to in Paris, including their financial means to be defined also through a stronger involvement of the business world. We underlined that the UfM project is wholeheartedly European: we believe therefore that a wider and more active participation of all EU Member States is essential to produce concrete and long-lasting results.
The success of Enlargement is dependent on the European public opinion, whose support we should guarantee by explaining clearly the political and economic advantages of the Strategy. We reiterated our support for the Western Balkans’ European perspective and to promote reforms, democracy and stabilisation in the region. The timing of each partner’s European path is linked to own merits. In this context, we expect that Croatia will be able to progress steadily in its commitments towards accession according to the road map. Serbia plays a crucial role in the stability of the area and has made tangible progress. It is important to recognise them and to send clear signals of encouragement, in particular by unfreezing the Interim Agreement as soon as possible and granting a candidate country status, if the conditions are met and in the light of a Commission assessment.
Our exchange of views on EU migration policies showed that, although many important results have already been achieved, in particular through the Pact for Asylum and Migration, the process needs further consolidation in order to reach real effectiveness and sustainability. The Mediterranean represents a fundamental test case of the EU willingness and capacity to implement a true common immigration policy. In this framework, with a view to translating EU commitments into concrete results, we emphasized the need to set up “burden-sharing” and solidarity mechanisms among Member States, and to achieve a more result-oriented active cooperation with third countries in preventing illegal flows in the Mediterranean. In this perspective, immigration issues will be the object of regular exchange of information and coordination among Olive Group Members. We have decided that: a) an ad hoc meeting of the Olive Group states will be held in Spain in the second semester of to discuss the following issues: the renewal of the Hague program (the Stockholm program); b) the assessment of the European pact on Asylum and Migration adopted by the European Council of 15-16 October 2008.
Our discussion was finally focused on the second Strategic Energy Review recently adopted by the Commission. We debated about the modalities with which the EU could speak with a single voice vis-à-vis its main suppliers, and on the specific interests of the EU Mediterranean Member States in the development of the EU energy network. We specifically recognised the unique opportunity provided, inter alia by the Mediterranean Solar Plan, to foster a special partnership between the EU and the Southern Mediterranean, as well as to promote a renewed relationship with the entire African continent and with the broader Middle East. We also underlined the importance of the Southern corridors within the EU energy priorities. We underlined the need to allocate adequate resources for the infrastructure development and expressed the auspices of a broad European private sector involvement.
Portugal has offered to host the next meeting of the Olive Group during the first semester of 2009.