The EU Action Plan for the Middle East aims to improve the lives of PalestiniansImage: AP
Mideast Action Plan
DW staff (nda)
October 19, 2007
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier plans to visit the Middle East in the coming weeks as part of preparations for the Mid-East conference due to take place in the United States at the end of November.
According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jäger, Steinmeier's trip will also include meetings related to the European Union's Middle East Action Plan, a Germany-led initiative discussed earlier this week in Brussels and at the Lisbon summit over Oct. 18-19.
The German foreign minister said that the proposal would help foster Middle East peace by promoting small and medium-sized businesses in the Palestinian territories and building up special economic zones.
The plan also aims to increase EU assistance in the training of Palestinian police and judiciary as well as in the educational and civil service sectors with greater EU assistance focused on Palestinian universities and students.
The idea, Steinmeier said, was for the EU to help wean Palestinians from development aid by helping to strengthen their private sector.
"In order to swiftly generate the required momentum following an Israeli-Palestinian accord and the planned Middle East conference, Europe needs to clearly spell out what contribution it intends to make to take this process forward," he said.
The point of an EU action plan would be to highlight what the EU is doing to support the process now under way, Steinmeier continued. "We should do everything we can to foster the ongoing dialogue and create a favorable political environment at regional and international level," he said.
EU ready to play constructive role in peace process
Steinmeier added that there was no need to wait until the US-hosted conference on the Middle East next month before going ahead with the EU’s plan. "I told my colleague (US Secretary of State Condoleezza) Rice that we will do everything to ensure that Europe plays a constructive role," he told reporters.
For years the EU has been lending active backing to the Middle East peace process and consequently has close relations with the relevant parties and countries in the region and is the main source of funding for reconstruction and development.
Steinmeier put total financial and humanitarian aid from the EU and its member states to the region at 800 million euros ($1.14 billion) for 2007 so far.