|EuroMed summit to focus on immigration and terrorism
|Meeting also to include Libya as a full member of the organization
The issue of immigration is set to top the agenda of November's summit meeting of European Union and southern Mediterranean countries, foreign ministers from 11 such states decided yesterday at a preparatory gathering in Tunisia.
"We need a global approach to the issue, which must be dealt with urgently because North African countries are no longer just the states of origin (of immigrants to Europe) but also points of transit," Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told a news conference.
Thousands of people from across sub-Saharan Africa pass through the continent's Mediterranean states in their quest for what they hope will be a better life in Europe.
Five such people were killed last week as 500 would-be immigrants stormed a double fence around the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, a tiny pocket of Europe on the northernmost tip of Morocco.
"It's no longer a question of Algerian, Tunisian or Moroccan migrants coming to Europe, because there are bilateral agreements with these countries," Moratinos said.
"We must deal with new influxes from sub-Saharan Africa, which needs a global approach," he said.
Controversy and confusion has reigned as to whether Moroccan or Spanish bullets had killed two of the five immigrants.
A senior Moroccan Army officer insisted Moroccan troops had not fired on the immigrants.
"I categorically deny that our forces deployed their arms at any time. How could it be in our interest to fire on illegal immigrants," the officer told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding there was no evidence of any of those who died having been shot in the back.
To add to the confusion Spanish daily El Pais on Saturday quoted a preliminary police report saying that Spanish forces had not used live ammunition at Ceuta.
El Pais said the report suggested the impacts which killed two immigrants who died on the Spanish side of the border fencing came "probably from the other (Moroccan) side."
Spain now holds the presidency of the Mediterranean Forum, which groups Algeria, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia and Turkey.
The Euro-Mediterranean (EuroMed) summit in Barcelona on November 27-29 will mark the 10th anniversary of a program of cooperation between the European Union and the countries on the southern rim of the Mediterranean.
Algerian Foreign Minister Mohammad Bedjaoui suggested a Euro-Mediterranean charter on immigration be adopted at the summit.
The preparatory meeting in the Tunisian coastal town of Hammamet also drafted a "road map" on the fight against terrorism, which is due to be formally adopted in Barcelona.
"We want to send a very clear signal that we are all engaged against terrorism at the same time as ensuring human rights, democratic principles and liberty are protected," said Moratinos.
European investment in North Africa and other issues of economic cooperation were discussed at the forum as was the possibility of setting up a Euro-Mediterranean bank.
The ministers also talked about how cultural tourism could be used to boost development in southern Mediterranean states.
The 11 states agreed to Libya's integration into the group. Tripoli currently has observer status in EuroMed.
"We are waiting for Libya's response," said Moratinos.
The Daily Star