Fez, 3rd April 2008 - In Morocco, the Slovenian Minister for the Economy and current President of EU Competitiveness Council, Andrej Vizjak, together with the host, the Moroccan Minister responsible for tourism, Mohamed Boussaid, is co-chairing the first Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial Conference on Tourism.

This is the first EuroMed Conference of ministers responsible for tourism with which the 39 Member States of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership are laying new foundations for closer cooperation between partner countries in the area of tourism.

“As a Mediterranean country Slovenia is well aware of the immense benefits that closer cooperation between the EU and its southern Mediterranean partners can bring to the further development of tourism in the region,” the President of the EU Competitiveness Council, Andrej Vizjak, stressed in his address.

The adoption of the first political conclusions and guidelines on future economic, environmental and cultural cooperation between the EU and its southern partners with regard to the further development of sustainable tourism establishes tourism as an increasingly autonomous area of discussion as well as laying down an important program for achieving the aims of Euro-Mediterranean Partnership within the Barcelona Process.

Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner, Joe Borg, attended the conference, bringing his precious contribution to the meeting.

In their conclusions, the Ministers: “Stressed that tourism is one of the major economic sectors in the Mediterranean. In 2005, more than 50 million tourist arrivals were registered in Mediterranean partner countries, and, in most countries, the majority of the arrivals were from EU Member States.

“The establishment of a Euro-Mediterranean University in Slovenia with study programs focused on the current needs of Mediterranean tourism is another contribution and incentive towards enhanced cooperation between partners,” emphasized Mr Vizjak.

At the Conference, the ministers presented their views on measures to promote the development of Mediterranean tourism within the Barcelona Process. They agreed that such a conference of ministers responsible for tourism should be held every two years and that, in the interim, working groups of senior officials should prepare further programs for enhanced Euro-Mediterranean cooperation in the area of tourism.

In the margins of the conference, Andrej Vizjak met the Moroccan Minister responsible for tourism, Mohamed Boussaid. They talked about possibilities for further enhancing economic and tourism-related cooperation between the two countries.

Tourism was first included in the Partnership’s annual activity programme at the initiative of Morocco, Portugal and Slovenia, while at their meeting in Lisbon in 2007 the Foreign Ministers confirmed the holding of this first conference of Euro-Med ministers responsible for tourism.

Tourism has a long history in the FEMIP countries and has become a growth sector in most of them. This is primarily due to the region’s natural and cultural resources, a desirable climate, and a location close to key markets, says the report. These attributes give FEMIP countries an outstanding potential for further tourism development; creating income throughout the region and distributing it across socio-economic levels. This, on top of its current economic importance to most FEMIP countries, gives tourism the capacity to influence economic development to a greater extent than any other industry.

According to the findings of an analysis of tourism strategies and policies undertaken by FEMIP, the European Investment Bank’s dedicated Euro-Mediterranean arm, there are large differences in the tourism development of the Mediterranean Partner Countries. Five countries, namely Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco, have a substantial tourism development, while four others, Gaza & West Bank, Lebanon, Israel and Algeria, have seen lower, or even negative, growth rates.

The “Analysis of Tourism Strategies and Policies in the FEMIP Countries and Proposals for Sub-regional Tourism Development” reviews the current position of the tourism sector across the region, identifying strengths and weaknesses, before suggesting ways in which a strength in one part of the region could be used to address a weakness in another part.

Speech by Slovenian Presidency of the EU 2008

Speech by Joe Borg, Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs