Industrial cooperation: Euro-Mediterranean ministers meet in Brussels to enhance partnership

Representatives from more than 30 Euro-Med countries and partners came together at the Union for the Mediterranean’s (UfM) ninth ministerial meeting on Euro-Mediterranean industrial cooperation, held today in Brussels with the aim of enhancing support for SMEs and well as further developing its ultimate ambition to create a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area. International and national business associations as well as international organisations were also present to contribute to the debate.
The EU was represented by Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship who co-chaired the meeting with Jordan's Minister for Industry & Trade, Hatem Hafez Al-Halawani Al-Tamimi.
The findings of an assessment of the business climate in the Mediterranean neighbour countries were due to be presented, together with a work programme for 2014-2015, while a declaration to continue to develop EU-Med business was to be endorsed by ministers.
Assessment of the Mediterranean business climate
The 2013 assessment of the Mediterranean business climate found that while there has been progress in SME policy elaboration and implementation, it has been modest, incremental and uneven across economies and dimensions.
On the bright side, and as a result of the transition processes in some countries, private sector organisations have become more active. New associations have been established, some of them representing the voices of new entrepreneurs, and old and well established relations between the political and the business elites have been carefully scrutinized.
Across the region, public-private dialogue is more open and constructive and has generally contributed to improving the quality of public policy towards small business.
The challenge for Mediterranean economies, particularly those going through political transition, is to develop and implement structural policies in challenging times where short-term solutions are needed. The assessment's findings will be endorsed at the Ministerial meeting and will guide future reforms.
The 2013 assessment looked at developments over the past five years. Several hundred business development stakeholders in the public and private sectors contributed to the assessment in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia. The evaluation was coordinated by the European Commission in collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the European Training Foundation and the European Investment Bank.
Elements of future work programme
Today's meeting included discussion on strategic directions for future Euro-Mediterranean industrial cooperation, after having consulted governments and business associations on the southern rim of the Mediterranean.
Ministers were due to discuss the work programme to be implemented in 2014-2015, including methods to continue improving the business climate, promote entrepreneurship, innovation and SMEs based on the "Small Business Act" for Europe.
Other aims include encouraging SMEs to innovate, export, network and internationalise, building a large pan-Euro-Mediterranean market for industrial products, conducting dialogues and exchanging good practice in sectors of common interest such as textiles and clothing and creative industries.
Joint declaration
At the end of today's meeting, the Ministers of Industry of the Union for the Mediterranean will adopt a declaration to:
·      Continue the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean Charter for Enterprise and reconciliation with the "Small Business Act" for Europe, taking into account the conclusions and recommendations of the 2013 assessment of the implementation of the Charter/"Small Business Act" for Europe, involving training at regional and local level, optimization and synergy of financial support and technical assistance provided by the EU and other donors
·      Intensify networking of businesses and business support services in the EU and other Mediterranean countries
·      Continue to build a large Euro-Mediterranean industrial market, including the preparation and negotiation of the agreements on conformity assessment and acceptance of industrial products
·      Conduct dialogues in areas of common interest - such as the dialogue on the future of the textile/clothing sector which will mark its 10th anniversary with a conference on innovation on 24-25 March 2014 - and exchange best practices (such as forming clusters in creative industries sectors).
The declaration can be seen as an important milestone in the move towards a Euro-Mediterranean area in which SMEs can start, expand, create jobs, export, import, invest and build business partnerships. (EU Neighbourhood Info)
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Press release
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre - Economy
DG Enterprise &Industry – EU-Mediterranean

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