EU finance ministers shelving Euro-Mediterranean
Last night, European Union finance ministers were giving a sceptical
reception to proposals that a new Euro-Mediterranean bank be established
to finance development projects in countries of the region.
The ministers were expected to be shelving the idea yesterday at their
monthly meeting, as Spain appeared to be the only EU country strongly
in favour of the development-assistance initiative.
In lieu of the Euro-Mediterranean bank concept, the gathering of finance
ministers was expected to promote the creation of a unit within the
European Investment Bank, as the most cost-effective way of promoting
growth in the Mediterranean basin.
Additionally, a new non-financing institution could be established
as a forum for the countries and agencies involved.
The EU head office last month proposed the Euro-Med bank be made a subsidiary
of the Luxembourg-based EIB, the EU's agency for long-term development
However, opponents had contended that a subsidiary would effectively
constitute a new bank with its own shareholders, and most EU countries
are apparently not convinced that one is needed.
The finance ministers are expected to send their opinion on the matter
to the 15 EU leaders for a mid-March summit meeting in Barcelona.
The European Union has gone to lengths to develop a special relationship
with Maltas Mediterranean neighbours - Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt,
Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinians, Syria, Tunisia and
Turkey. To this end, it has pledged billions of euros in aid, but the
distribution of funds has been complicated by closed economies, incompatible
banking sectors and the violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
The ministers were also putting together a position paper on labour
and financial market reforms for the economic summit on 15 and 16 March.