27th Feb 2024

Terror definition causes trouble at EU-Mediterranean summit

EU ministers and ten Mediterranean nations gathered in Barcelona for a two-day summit failed on Sunday (27 November) to agree on a code of conduct against terrorism and a joint statement on the Middle East peace process.

European leaders stressed that the conference is an opportunity for muslim countries to join them in condemning terrorism and establishing a code of conduct to counter terror between the EU and its Euromed (Euro-Mediterranean) partners.

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  • Spanish leader Jose Luis Zapatero is hosting the summit (Photo: PSOE)

The Euromed group involves Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.

However, initial efforts to create a code have been troubled by disagreements over how to define terms, with some muslim states wanting to differentiate between terrorism and what they see as legitimate resistance to occupation by a foreign military force.

Spain and the UK still hope to announce a common conclusion when the gathering ends on Monday.

To the disappointment of hosts Spain and the UK presidency, only two of the ten Mediterranean partners - Turkey and the Palestinian authority - sent heads of government to the two-day conference in Barcelona, aiming at strengthening political and socio-economic links between the 25 EU member states and their southern neighbours.

"They have lost a historic opportunity to demonstrate their support for democratic reforms and the fight against terrorism", representatives of the Spanish government stated, according to ABC.

The two attending leaders of the EU Mediterranean partners - Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan and the leader of the Palestinian authority Mahmud Abbas - used the occasion to press their respective agendas for EU membership and the Middle East peace process.

Arab diplomats at the summit said some leaders, such as Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, preferred to stay home rather than be lectured by the Europeans on democracy, human rights and freedom of expression, according to Spanish media.

Optimism for Monday

Faced with a probable summit breakdown over terrorism, diplomats in Barcelona suggested that the delegations might abandon the subject, so as not to "contaminate" the other issues to be dealt with at the meeting.

Attending delegations started on late Sunday evening to concentrate efforts on pending subjects, like a five-year working program for the region, including the establishment of a Euro-Mediterranean free trade zone, opening up trade for services and agricultural goods.

Another focus of the meeting was finding common ways to combat illegal immigration to the EU, with justice commissioner Franco Frattini suggesting that the EU's five Mediterranean member states - Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Malta - should increase co-operation to form a Mediterranean naval coastal brigade.

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