Barcelona in northeastern Spain is playing host to the Euromed summit that opens today. Over the next couple of days the meeting will bring together EU leaders and some ten Mediterranean partners, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The conference has attracted its share of opponents. Members of the aid agency Oxfam staged a protest outside the conference centre. They want to warn the EU against seeking rapid free farming trade with Arab nations around the Mediterranean, saying it will drive people there deeper into poverty.
The Vice-chairman of the European Investment Bank, Philipe de Fontaine Vive, says the Euromed summit has the same ambitions as the European Union: to achieve similar living standards in the north and in the south of the Mediterranean. “Especially in Europe, history has shown that the more you open up trade zones, the more you get rid of gaps between countries,” he said. Top of the agenda at the summit is the creation of a free trade zone between the north and the south of the Mediterranean by 2010. Delegates will also discuss political and economic reform, migration, and terrorism.