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Lisbon,Nov.27,2020(Lusa)-The Portuguese Presidency of the European Union (EU) is in a position to make progress in the process of deepening relations with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said.

Speaking to Lusa after taking part, by videoconference, in an EU-South Neighbourhood ministerial meeting on Thursday, the minister explained that Portugal was in favour of modernising relations with those 15 countries, which were currently governed by different organisations and that it was suffering from too much focus on the issue of migration.

"We have already asked the European External Action Service, therefore European diplomacy, to work on a proposal to see how we can modernise our neighbourhood policy," the minister said, adding that another step is to develop the Neighbourhood Policy into a real strategic partnership with the south.

He said that the issue will be discussed at least at one of the EU's Foreign Affairs Councils and Santos Silva expects that it will be possible to adopt conclusions.

"We have conditions for this issue to be the subject of political debate among [foreign] ministers during the Portuguese presidency," he said.

For Portugal, the modernisation of the Neighbourhood Policy must, first of all, involve the articulation of the various organisations that provide a framework for dialogue between the two sides of the Mediterranean.

These are the Union for the Mediterranean, which brings together the 27 EU member states and 15 countries from the Middle East and North Africa, the 5+5 Forum, between the five countries of the Maghreb and the five European countries of the western Mediterranean (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya), and the French initiative, the Summit of the Two Rims, which brings together the countries of the 5+5, Germany, the European Commission and various regional bodies, including the Union for the Mediterranean.

"There are various forms of linkage between the two shores of the Mediterranean that need to be articulated if we are to move forward. [...] We cannot multiply organisations," the minister said.

He added that the fundamental dimensions of cooperation in this area should be security and stability, economy and exchange, particularly cultural and educational.

"One of the things we have to do to enrich our partnership is to look at various dimensions, not just the dimension of migration. [...] Not to look only at the relationship between the two sides of the Mediterranean as a question of migration, let alone of combating illegal migration," he stressed.

Portugal also proposes energy, migration and knowledge as most urgent priorities for this dialogue.

For all this to move forward, he said, a strategy for the southern neighbourhood with a regional dimension still needed to be created in the EU, which would encourage the economic integration of these countries, i.e. trade between them, currently among the least intense in the world.

MDR/IMYN // ADB.

Lusa


Agency : LUSA

Date : 2020-11-28 09:40:00







 

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