A ceremony on the occasion of signing in initials the Association Agreement between the Syrian Arab Republic and the European Union was held Tuesday at Brussels-based EU Commission in presence of Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara and the EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Paten.
The Agreement was signed from the Syrian side by Dr. Abdullah Dardari, Chairman of the State Planning Board and from the European side by Mr. Christian Leffler, Director General of the Middle East and the Mediterranean Department at the European Commission.
On the political side, the Association Agreement provides a framework to conduct regular political dialogue on international issues of common interest, fostering mutual understanding and promoting the convergence of views. It includes essential provisions on respect for the democratic principles and fundamental human rights, cooperation to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and anti-terrorism.
On the economic chapter, the Association Agreement foresees the creation of a free trade area between the EU and Syria, contributing to the creation of a larger Euro-Mediterranean area by the envisaged date of 2010. The agreement covers trade in goods, services, rules for public procurement, as well as for the protection of intellectual property rights, co-operation in a large number of areas including on customs, transport, tourism or environment, as well as dispute settlement provisions in line with those in the WTO.
The agreement also comprises a chapter on co-operation in social and cultural matters. Cooperation will extend to a wide range of fields, from education and culture to the fight against crime, building and strengthening the rule of law, legal and judicial co-operation, racism and xenophobia, drugs and terrorism, movement of persons, control and prevention of illegal immigration as well as for the re-admission of nationals and non-nationals illegally arriving on the territory of one party from the other.
Shara voiced pleasure over this event and expressed high appreciation of the great efforts exerted by the Syrian and European negotiators to reach the document which consists of 1,450 pages.
The Syrian minister added that the content of this Agreement reflects joint willingness for cooperation between Syria and the EU in various fields, particularly political, economic, cultural and security areas.
Shara went on saying that "Syria’s signing on the Association Agreement now aims at establishing cooperation between the Syrian and the European parties on the basis of constructive dialogue...Syria has a real interest in this cooperation and implementation of this agreement and the issuing of laws and decrees helpful in this regard."
He added that "this agreement constitutes a suitable and vital mechanism to help in the program of development and modernization process in Syria… It also constitutes a safe way to transfer technology and settle it in our country away from unjustified suspensions and accusations… This agreement will encourage agriculture and industrial sectors in Syria to export their high-quality products to promising European markets and vice versa…"
For his part, Mr. Paten expressed pleasure over signing the Syria-EU Association following long and difficult negotiations, saying the Agreement will pose the framework for future European relations with Syria.
He added that with the achievement of this Agreement the European-Mediterranean network for developing relations on the basis of cooperation and respect has been completed. (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )