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Catherine Ashton: Mediterranean is a top priority

11 janvier 2010

The Mediterranean is a top priority for the EU, with its international credibility depending on how it interacts with its neighbours, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has told the European Parliament in preliminary remarks at the start of her public hearing by MEPs.

“We as EU have primary responsibility for our neighbourhood,” she said. “This is important per se. But our wider international credibility also depends on how we interact with our immediate neighbours.” She told MEPs the wider Mediterranean region was “a top priority”: “There are deep historical ties and common interests that bind us, as well as common problems including illegal migration. We need to take forward the work started under the Union for the Mediterranean.”

The High Representative added that the Middle East was high on her agenda, saying she would be meeting tomorrow, 12 January, with Senator Mitchell and Tony Blair, and intended to travel to the region “as soon as possible”.

The EU needed to be active and operational “both on the global issues, where Europe is expected to play its full role, and in our immediate neighbourhood, where we are expected to take the lead,” she said. “As Chair of the Foreign Affairs Council I will try to ensure that we live up to these expectations.” The EU needed to play a “stronger and more credible role in a fast-changing world”, she said. “Big power shifts are taking place. New crises are popping up every day. We have to ensure that our response keeps up.”

The High Representative also told MEPs that the creation of the new European External Action Service stemming from the Lisbon Treaty was a top priority. “This is not just a bureaucratic exercise. But a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to build something that brings together all the elements of our engagement – political, economic and military – to implement one coherent strategy… We need the best and the brightest working for it. From all relevant backgrounds in the Commission, the Council Secretariat and the Member-States.”

Catherine Ashton Opening Remarks to European Parliament Hearing

Catherine Ashton website

European Parliament hearings into new Commission

ENPI Info Centre EuroMed

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