Boost for Euro-Mediterranean transport cooperation
Brussels, Belgium – Meeting in Marrakesh, the Transport Ministers of the European Union and the Mediterranean countries have decided to encourage further reform of the transport sector in the Mediterranean region and to step up regional and subregional cooperation in this area. In addition, a comprehensive air transport agreement between the EU and Morocco, the first of its kind, has been initialled in the margins of the Conference.
Marking the occasion, the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Transport, Jacques Barrot, declared: â€œTen years after the launch of the Barcelona Process, the Marrakesh Conference marks an important step in the development of Euro-Mediterranean transport cooperation. It is vital that we work together to set up a fully integrated, secure Euro-Mediterranean transport network.â€ He went on to say that â€œit is by working together on a practical level that we can make the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership a reality and meet the needs of those on both sides of the Mediterranean.â€
The ministerial discussions focused primarily on the Blue Paper on Euro-Mediterranean Transport Policy, drawn up within the frame of the EuroMed Transport Forum, and on the final report of the High Level Group on the extension of the trans-European transport network to neighbouring countries. The Blue Paper, adopted by consensus by all the Mediterranean Partners, examines the transport situation in the region and offers a number of policy recommendations for setting up an integrated Euro-Mediterranean system. It covers all modes of transport, with a particular focus on the opening up of markets, security and safety and the smooth functioning of the multimodal transport chain.
The conclusions of the Marrakesh Conference, based on the Blue Paper, identify the following priorities for future cooperation: institutional reform, infrastructure and its financing, maritime transport, multimodal transport, air transport and Galileo. These priorities will be eligible for appropriate support from the EU via the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, which will be the new financial instrument for the region as from 2007.
On 14 December 2005, the day before the Conference, Vice-President Barrot and the Moroccan Minister for Equipment and Transport, Karim Ghellab, initialled the comprehensive air transport agreement between the EU and Morocco, which will replace the current bilateral treaties between Morocco and the Member States. It provides not only for the reciprocal opening up of markets but also for regulatory cooperation on safety, security and air traffic management. The agreement will pave the way for the harmonious development of a bilateral market of 4.5 million passengers a year and is elegant testimony to deepening Euro-Mediterranean ties in aviation.
Also in the margins of the Conference, a second meeting took place between the Israeli Minister for Transport, Meier Sheetrit, and his Palestinian counterpart, Minister Saad Kharma, under the auspices of Vice-President Barrot. This was an opportunity to take stock of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on transport, in particular progress towards the setting up of the Joint Israel-Palestinian Transport Office. The Ministers had signed the Officeâ€™s constituent charter in Jerusalem on 21 September 2005, in the presence of the European Commission.
 The EuroMed Transport Forum is the pre-eminent body for regional transport cooperation. It brings together senior officials from the Ministries of Transport of the 10 Mediterranean Partners and the 25 EU Member States once or twice a year.
 The Blue Paper can be found on the Internet at: www.euromedtransport.org