Commissioner Chris Patten will visit Damascus on 15-16 September and meet with President Bashar Al-Assad. As the Syrian Government resigned on 10 September, the Commissioner will meet members of the outgoing cabinet. He will also meet with members of the business community. The main goal of the visit is to boost negotiations on an EU-Syria Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement as well as to discuss regional issues including the Middle East Peace Process and Iraq.
On the eve of his departure, Commissioner Patten stated: “The European Union’s new ‘Wider Europe’ policy will give a major boost to Euro-Mediterranean co-operation, and open new economic opportunities for our Euro-Med partners. I intend to underline the message that it is urgent to speed up negotiations so that Syria, the only partner in the region that has yet to conclude an Association Agreement with us, is not left behind.
The Commissioner’s visit to Damascus on 15-16 September will serve primarily to give impetus to the negotiations of an EU-Syria Association Agreement. The bilateral Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements and multilateral co-operation are the two pillars of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, also known as the Barcelona Process. Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements cover political dialogue, economic co-operation, co-operation in Justice and Home Affairs, as well as social and cultural co-operation.
Syria is the only partner country in the region, which has yet to conclude an Association Agreement with the EU.
Syria has yet to accept the political and economic provisions that have become the standard within the Barcelona Process. It has also been reluctant to undertake economic reforms necessary to fully benefit from an Agreement and from the emerging Euro-Mediterranean free trade area.
Commissioner Patten will underline the urgent need for Syria to accept the established formula for bilateral co-operation in the Euro-Mediterranean context, including economic reforms. Otherwise, Syria risks being left behind as the Partnership moves ahead under the recently launched EU “Wider Europe” initiative.
Mr Patten will also be asking Syria to help as a stabilising force in the Middle East Peace Process and to play a constructive role in Iraq.
The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Barcelona Process) was launched in 1995, but it was only in 1998 that Syria agreed to start negotiations on an Association Agreement, and only in 2002 that it was ready to discuss on the basis of a full removal of import prohibitions. Since then, negotiations have moved forward and are now entering the final stages. Syrian officials were last in Brussels at the beginning of September. Further discussions will be held in Brussels at the beginning of October. The launching of the new EU neighbourhood policy, “Wider Europe”, offers all twelve Euro-Mediterranean partners (in addition to Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus) the chance to take full advantage of the European Internal Market, in parallel with their adoption of substantial political and economic reforms. The Association Agreement needs to be concluded rapidly to prevent Syria being left further behind in this process.
More information on the EU-Syria relations at :