EU To Forge Own Policy on Middle East | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 22.03.2004
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EU To Forge Own Policy on Middle East

Despite calls for a common EU-US approach to the Middle East, Brussels will press ahead with its own "distinct approach," according to an internal policy paper obtained by the EUobserver.

Although the European Union and the United States have repeatedly stressed their united efforts to bring peace to the troubled Middle East, Brussels is now on the verge of adopting its own distinctly European approach. According to an internal policy paper obtained by the Euobserver and drafted by the Irish Presidency, the EU has set 11 policy goals for greater engagement in the Middle East.

Chief among them is the creation of a "common zone of peace, prosperity and progress". The EU, however, is concerned that its own policies and what’s left of the Arab-Israeli peace process may be overtaken by a U.S. policy heavily focused on democratic reforms. Washington has proposed a series of joint declarations on reform of the Middle East to take place at this summer’s EU-US, NATO and G8 summits. But Brussels, faced with calls from the region for more consultation, is opting to "continue to pursue its own distinct strategy".

In recent months the EU and U.S. have held a series of talks aimed at agreeing on a common approach. They appear to have achieved few results on the most contentious issues, however. The EU now says it will forge a "complimentary but distinct" approach, developing what it calls "a sense of shared ownership" of the plan.

"There is a view in the region that its perspectives have not been fully taken into account in the development of the current initiatives," the document states.

Diplomats say the outcome of the meeting of the Arab League at the end of this month will be a major factor in determining the EU’s actions. However, there is also some concern about the sidelining of the Middle East Peace Process.

"Progress on the resolution of the Middle East conflict cannot be a precondition for confronting the urgent reform challenges facing the countries in the region nor vice versa," says the document. "The lack of clear prospects for peace is already making it harder for reformers in the region to succeed".

The EU is expected to finalize its policy at June’s meeting of EU leaders.

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