The President of the European Commission Romano Prodi will travel to North Africa this week seeking greater economic integration between Europe and Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.
The first official visit there by a European Commission chief is aimed at promoting a Euro-Mediterranean policy to create a vast free-trade zone between Europe and the countries bordering the southern Mediterranean by 2010.
Currently, 80-90 percent of the three countries' exports go to the EU, while trade among them accounts for only four percent, a commission official said.
Prodi will stress the "economic logic" of integrating North African trade and EU cooperation with the three countries, he said. Tunisia and Morocco have trade agreements with the EU, while Algeria is still negotiating an accord.
Prodi was to arrive in Tunisia on Thursday for a meeting with President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali. His visit will include the signing of a funding agreement for about €60 million ($56.5 million), mainly in education aid.
In Algeria on Friday, Prodi is scheduled to meet President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and sign €30-million worth of financing agreements, principally to help boost professionalism among national security agents, another European official said.
On Saturday, Prodi will visit Morocco to conclude financing agreements totaling €130 million, mostly dealing with health and fishing. He is scheduled to return to Brussels on Monday. — (AFP, Brussels)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )