Saturday

25th Mar 2017

Ashton to host global conference on north Africa

  • Egypt: upheaval in the region requires a co-ordinated global approach, says Brussels (Photo: hhesterr)

European foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is to hold a high-level international conference in Brussels next week aiming to craft a global response to the upheaval in north Africa and the Middle East.

She is inviting senior officials from the United States, Japan, international financial institutions including the World Bank to the European capital, as well as from the region itself, to develop a co-ordinated global response to the historic changes in the region.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"It is essential that the whole of the international community comes together on a strategy. We're hoping for something very substantial," an EU official told EUobserver.

Officials stress that the meeting is more ambitious than a donors' conference. "It's international, not EU, on the initiative of the high representative. The meeting is to exchange information and co-ordinate a response," said an EU diplomat.

"It's clear that we can't just have the EU acting. In order to maximise support, instead of us each doing our own thing separately, we need to pull together," added the source close to discussions, who preferred not to be named.

The conference is unlikely to be at the ministerial level, but rather a meeting of senior civil servants, probably including, from Egypt, the director-general of the foreign ministry.

While the attendees are to discuss the response to what has happened across the region, the focus, according to the contact "will obviously be on Tunisia and Egypt because that's where there has been concrete developments and needs. There are new administrations to deal with, but of course we will see what happens between now and then."

"Obviously this can be broadened. We've seen protests in Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen."

EU assistance is focussed on five institutional areas Brussels feels is necessary for "deep democracy building": electoral reform, support for civil society, construction of an independent judiciary and a free press and media, and the fight against corruption.

Preparations of support for Tunisia are at the most advanced stage, with EU assistance to target impoverished areas in the centre and south of the country.

The idea is to develop a series of pilot projects for these regions modelled on the EU's own cohesion policies.

In discussion with Tunisian authorities, Europe is also looking to tighten economic governance over the longer term and support the recently established investigation committee on corruption and fraud.

The bloc is looking to strengthen the discourse on public financial management similar to efforts already underway as a part of ongoing trade liberalisation talks with Tunis.

The European Investment Bank has also opened a dialogue to increase the support ceiling for the region by an additional billion euros.

Tunisia could be a candidate for loans, but there are two conditions: The country must have to have a financing arrangement with the IMF, and begin to address its balance of payments financing gap.

Brussels is aware that opposition groups now entering government represent a mix of economic and ideological positions and that for many, the Western supported privatisation programmes of both regimes was seen as a source of corruption, and so the EU must carefully navigate these waters.

"But we cannot just give them these things. We have to have commitments from them in return," warned the source.

SMEs lack support in EU financial plan

The European Commission's plan for a capital markets union is said to be aimed at small and medium-sized enterprises, but many could end up being left out in the cold.

Eurozone chief in 'drinks and women' row

[Updated] The Netherlands' Jeroen Dijsselbloem faces calls for resignation after saying that crisis-hit countries in southern Europe spent "money on drinks and women" before being helped by others.

Greek bailout talks to 'intensify'

Greece and its creditors will meet in Brussels later this week to unblock negotiations needed for a new tranche of financial aid, amid concerns over the country's economic situation.

Varoufakis back in push for ECB transparency

The former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and German left-wing MEP Fabio De Masi want to know whether the European Central Bank overstepped its powers when putting capital controls on Greek banks in 2015.

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states

Illicit money flowing out of Russia ended up in almost every single EU state, an investigation has found, posing questions on the integrity of Europe’s banking systems.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  2. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  3. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  4. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  5. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  6. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  7. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  9. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  10. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  11. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People
  12. Nordic Council of Ministers25 Nordic Bioeconomy Cases for Sustainable Change