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Friday, September 09, 2005

Holding High the Banner *

At the risk of being sanctioned for un-patriotism, I decided to leave anyway for London, the capital of our old colonial masters.

I have been invited to participate in a two-day international conference on the theme: Capitalizing on Euro-Med Networks. The conference is organised by The Royal Institute of International Affairs,RIIA, at Chatham House, Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 September 2005

My own contribution will be as a member of a panel discussing future developments, Beyond Barcelona where I hope to be able to say something about the obstructive role played by the ruling dynasties to political and economic reforms in the region. (May god help me to say something very very patriotic)

The Conference organizers distributed the following info:

“As Europe’s southern border, the Mediterranean is a region with which Europe is deeply connected economically, politically and culturally. It is straddled by a number of networks that link the states around its shores through patterns of labour and migration movement, energy flows, the environment, trade and security. The domestic politics of the states of the Mediterranean basin impinge upon one another and the dynamics of the region have impacts within the region and beyond.

This two-day conference will take place ten years after the launch of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership process in 1995 that was set up to enhance the economic and political links between continental Europe and the states of the southern and eastern Mediterranean.

The ‘Barcelona process’, as this Euro-Mediterranean partnership is popularly known, encompasses politics, security, cultural dialogue, human rights promotion and, as its centrepiece, a planned free-trade area covering all states of the European Union and the non-member states of the Mediterranean basin.

While things have not stood still in the region, conflicts in the Middle East have had a major impact on progress, and the ambitious aims of the process have not been met. The many links, both formal and informal, now operating in the region will need a significant boost if these ambitions are to be realized. The process is now to be complemented with the new EU Neighbourhood policy that has been developed to manage relations with those states on the borders of an enlarged European Union.

This conference will bring together all parties involved and affected by the process – business, governments, NGOs and academic experts – to discuss the current dynamics of the region, possible future scenarios, and whether this new policy represents a ‘new start’ for the region.”

Obviousely, while I am in London, the town that our own PM, the mighty Khalifa bin Salman, dares not visit, I will drop in the PM's favourite residence during the good old days, and will send him a thought - a skål.

*The patriotic banner, of course!

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