European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will represent the European Commission at the Arab League Summit on 28 March. This is only the second summit to which non-Arab leaders have been invited.
The Commissioner hopes to hold bilateral meetings including leading figures from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya and Saudi Arabia.
On the eve of her trip, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner made the following remarks: “Intercultural dialogue is the defining issue of the decade. The real danger is not a clash of civilisations, but a clash of ignorance. We must seize every opportunity for dialogue, working always in a spirit of mutual respect. I am determined to use all the networks open to us: religious, cultural, academic, and parliamentary, as well as the media and civil society”.
The European Commission has proposed a range of ways in which existing channels, particularly through the Barcelona Process and the Anna Lindh Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures, can be more fully used to promote deeper understanding between the EU and the Arab world.
The agenda of the Arab League Summit includes the Arab-Israeli conflict and the current situation in Iraq. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner commented: “We are all shocked by the level of violence in Iraq. I am pleased to see the Arab League’s active engagement in the preparations for a national reconciliation conference. National reconciliation is essential for the development of a stable and peaceful future for Iraq. The EU is playing its part, as a major donor and key supporter of the political transition”.
She added: “We will not turn our backs on the Palestinian people, too many of whom live in dire poverty. The EU respects their democratic choice but can only work with those who seek peace by peaceful means. Those who will make up the new Palestinian Authority have a responsibility to make good choices in the interests of their people”.