4 October 1994

Doc. 7155

CONTRIBUTION

of the Political Affairs Committee

to the debate of the Assembly

on co-operation in the Mediterranean Basin

by Mr. KASPEREIT,

France, European Democratic Group


Introduction

1.       Although the Council of Europe's primary mission is to work for European construction, we must nevertheless bear in mind that Europe is currently trying to develop a new notion of security and co-operation, which does not stop at the borders of our continent. As the President of the Assembly pointed out in his address to the Israeli Parliament, in January 1993, Europe needs to have at its borders countries and peoples who share the same democratic values and a high degree of prosperity.

2.       In this context, it is becoming crucial to increase co-operation in the Mediterranean Basin, so that all countries in the region may benefit from political stability, which also underpins the stability of Europe as a whole.

3.       However, this co-operation, which has focused mainly on cultural, economic, social and environmental matters, must acquire a political dimension. Your Rapporteur's view is that the Council of Europe has not had a Mediterranean policy until now, and must fill this gap as quickly as possible.

The Assembly and political co-operation in the Mediterranean

4.       When defining the framework of our own organisation's co-operation in the region, we should first of all ask ourselves if co-operation is to be limited to Mediterranean countries, both European and non-European, and to them only, or whether co-operation should extend to all Council of Europe Member States and non-member Mediterranean countries.

5.       Before answering this question, the co-operation concerns of Mediterranean countries, which are not Council of Europe Member States, have to be considered. All these countries set great store by European involvement in the region's "reconstruction". The clearest sign of this is their participation in various meetings (arranged, for instance, by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Council of Europe or the European Union), at which their representatives have expressed their desire to "build bridges" between the Northern Mediterranean and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean.

6.       Your Rapporteur believes that only co-operation with Europe as a whole will enable countries from the Northern, Eastern and Southern Mediterranean to overcome their problems of institutional, political, economic and social development. In several of these areas, the Council of Europe could become a special framework for co-operation, by drawing on its experience and achievements, as it has demonstrated in recent years through its co-operation with Central and Eastern European countries. It could also act as one of the main architects of Mediterranean co-operation.

7.       However, in order to play a primordial role in the Mediterranean, the Council of Europe must fulfil Mediterranean countries' expectations of co-operation, by

deploying the resources at present at its disposal.

8.       It should be noted that the Assembly has already expressed a view on this issue and has attempted to promote a mediterranean policy. In September 1991, Mr. Soares Costa recalled, in his report on the Council of Europe's general policy that a process along the lines of the CSCE could be applied to the Mediterranean region. Such a process would enable European countries to make an important contribution to advancing democracy in the region and would generate security. Mr. Soares Costa also pointed out that there was an urgent need to begin establishing these "security and confidence-building measures" in the Mediterranean region.

9.       Some months later, the Parliamentary Assembly participated, as an associate member, at the Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Security and Co-operation in the Mediterranean, in Malaga in June 1992. In the Conference's Final Document, the participants approved the initiative to set up an inter-governmental conference on security and co-operation in the Mediterranean, using the CSCE as a model, based on a proposal made by four Council of Europe Member States (France, Italy, Portugal, Spain).

10.       However, the Council of Europe cannot put a process such as the CSCM into operation (it is not equipped to do so). Instead, it can draw on its substantial achievement to contribute to the development of dialogue, solidarity and democratic institutions. The CSCM is an idea which deserves to be pursued further. The difficulties of reaching such an agreement should not be underestimated but as Mr. Soares Costa says in his report: "...such a body would enable European countries to make the important contribution for which history and geography fit them, not as a "European or western value" but as a practical, security-generating ideal which all mankind should embrace and draw benefit from".

11.       However, there is no question of skirting around grey areas, which could hamper political co-operation. The Mediterranean Basin region is effectively torn apart by numerous conflicts which must be resolved before better co-operation can be contemplated: disparities in development between countries result in imbalances and make the task sensitive and also the Middle East peace process, the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and the political situation in Algeria and Egypt also present difficulties for the implementation of co-operation policies.

12.       Disparities between countries of the Northern Mediterranean and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean derive in particular from population growth rates which are often higher than economic growth rates, fluctuations in energy prices and debts which impose harsh but necessary structural adjustment policies.

13.       The culmination of the Arab-Israeli peace process now being conducted is the sine qua non of peace and security in the Middle East. It is important to find just and lasting solutions based on the universal values of democracy and human rights. In this context, the Parliamentary Assembly welcomes with great satisfaction the Peace Agreement signed between Israel and the PLO in Washington on 13 September 1993. In Recommendation 1221 (1993) on the Middle East Peace Process, the Assembly requested European States "to play a more active political role" in the process and to support economic assistance programmes for the Middle East. In the opinion of the Assembly, the Council of Europe can "contribute actively to building a climate of confidence between the parties".

14.       The Assembly is significantly involved in the peace process and has offered, for example, to help in the organisation of elections in TransJordan and the Gaza Strip, and to invite Israeli and Arab public figures to come to speak in Strasbourg. Following this decision, Mr Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, in January, and Mr Arafat, President of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, in April, addressed the Assembly. Through its President, the Assembly welcomed the signature in Cairo of the Israeli/PLO agreement on the first phase of self-government in the Gaza Strip and the area of Jericho.

15.       It is also appropriate to recall that when in April and May 1993, during the preparation of the report on the peace process, the Sub-Committee on the Middle East went to Israel, TransJordan, the Gaza Strip, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, all the people it met expressed their great desire to co-operate with the Council of Europe. Egypt especially expressed interest in co-operation in the Mediterranean Basin and declared herself in favour of setting up a Mediterranean Forum to tackle problems relating in particular, to security, the environment and the economy. In this context, it is worth recalling that in Resolution 1013 (1994), the Assembly reaffirmed its position in favour of a conference on security and co-operation in the Mediterranean (CSCM) which could contribute to improving relations between Mediterranean states.

16.       In order to complete this picture, an overview of the Assembly's work in relation to security and co-operation in the Mediterranean, for the period from September 1993 to March 1994, is appended.

Conclusion

17.       The Council of Europe must take advantage of the era of peace and co-operation which has dawned in international affairs, and introduce a real policy of co-operation with Mediterranean Basin countries. Can the Council of Europe allow itself to be undermined by disparities of development with its Mediterranean neighbours, at the very moment when it is admitting new members and strengthening its cohesion ?

18.       To ensure that the gulf between Northern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin does not widen further, it is vital that the Council of Europe plays its part in establishing a dialogue between the two, using all the means at its disposal, at both parliamentary and intergovernmental levels.

19.       In an effort to minimise the risks of instability on Europe's doorstep, the Assembly must give further thought to the elements of our own organisation's Mediterranean Policy, bearing in mind that Mediterranean security is closely linked to European security, as well as to peace and international security. Only in a climate of North/South solidarity will human rights cease to be openly flouted, democracy be consolidated and states be able to enjoy political stability. To rally peoples and lead them to cooperate is the best way to avoid conflicts and thus be able to contemplate lasting and balanced development.

APPENDIX

The Assembly's work on Security and Co-operation in the Mediterranean

(September 1993 - March 1994)

1.       Situation in the former Yugoslavia

      On 28 September 1993, the Assembly adopted Resolutions 1010 (1993) on the situation of the refugees and displaced persons in Serbia and Montenegro and the the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and 1011 (1993) on the situation of women and children in the former Yugoslavia.

      On 25 January 1994, the Assembly adopted Resolutions 1019 (1994) on the humanitarian situation and needs of the refugees and displaced persons and other vulnerable groups in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, and 1020 (1994) on the economic consequences and problems for neighbouring countries arising from the implementation of United Nations sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).

      On 28 January 1994, the Bureau of the Assembly granted the Parliament of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina Special Guest Status.

      On 28 February 1994, the Standing Committee acting on behalf of the Assembly, adopted Resolution 1027 (1994) on the embargo imposed by Greece against the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

2.       Middle East Peace Process

      On 29 September 1993, the Assembly adopted Recommendation 1221 (1994) and Resolution 1013 (1993) on the peace process in the Middle East.

      On 26 January 1994, Mr Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel, addressed the Assembly. Mr Arafat, President of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation addressed the Assembly on 13 April 1994.

      On 28 February 1994, the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly, adopted Resolution 1026 (1994) on the massacre in Hebron and its consequences for the peace process in the Middle East.

3.       Situation in Cyprus

      The Political Affairs Committee is preparing a report on the situation in this Member State. Its Rapporteur, Lord Finsberg visited Cyprus from 31 January to 5 February 1994.

      Mr. Clerides, President of the Republic of Cyprus, addressed the Assembly on 12 April 1994.

4.       Mediterranean States who have applied for Council of Europe Membership

      In May and September respectively, Albania and Croatia submitted applications for Council of Europe membership. The Assembly has been requested by the Council of Ministers to give an Opinion on these applications.

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Reporting Committee: Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities (Doc. 7153)

Reference to committee: Doc. 6894 and Reference No. 1891 of 3 September 1993.

Contribution approved by the Political Affairs Committee on 4 October 1994.

Secretaries of the committee: Mr Hartland, Mr Kleijssen and Ms Chatzivassiliou