Euromed: Few results and wasted funds, says official

VOULIAGMENI – An EU official said on Monday that billions of euros designated for strengthening European-Mediterranean cooperation were going untapped due to a lack of know-how within many partner countries. Dimitris Dimitriadis, president of the European Economic and Social Committee that oversees the Euromed Partnership, said potential recipient states «don’t have the knowledge to participate; they don’t have the structures» to utilize funds properly. «We have billions of euros in our pockets, but it is not possible to use it,» he said at a two-day Euromed conference near Athens. Dimitriadis said progress since the Euromed partnership started in 1995 was limited and had reached an «impasse.» The partnership program aims to encourage political, social and economic dialogue among European and Mediterranean countries. «We have had a structured dialogue in the last 12 years, but speaking frankly, we don’t have concrete results, an achievement, added value… a lot of times the dialogue has had to be stopped, a lot of times delayed. For this reason we are not happy,» he told The Associated Press. One problem, Dimitriadis said, was the wide range of issues addressed in the program. Another is limited interest along the Mediterranean’s southern rim; Egypt, for example, is only now participating fully. Roberto Confalonieri, who heads the Euromed follow-up committee, acknowledged progress was «a delicate task.» «We can’t always bring it about,» partly due to differing societal mores – such as female genital mutilation, still widely practiced in Africa, but which he said most Europeans considered a «barbaric practice.» The European Commission’s coordinator for the EU’s Neighborhood Policy, Rutger Wissels, said undocumented immigration was not always the fault of Mediterranean rim states, who themselves were often transit points from places farther afield, like Sudan. «We should cast our net even wider,» he said. «The partner countries are as big a victim of this process as we are. Migration is not only a threat, it is also an opportunity» for Europe, he added. Boosting poor countries’ productivity and understanding their social and economic problems are key to preventing unmanageable migratory waves in the future, Dimitriadis said. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership is made up of the EU and 10 Mediterranean partners: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.