The European Union steps support in Southern Mediterranean and launches a new regional programme

The European Commission has adopted a new regional programme that will aim to promote political and democratic support in the Southern Neighbourhood. In its first phase actions will be implemented in Morocco and Tunisia. It will target all levels of governmental bodies as well as other members of the structure of the state and of civil society.

The new regional programme for political and democratic reform in the Southern Neighbourhood to be developed by the European Union, is part of its strategic partnership with the Council of Europe (CoE). The programme will particularly target the judiciary, aiming to support its independence. It will also aim to promote good governance and the fight against corruption, the protection of human rights and democratic values and institutions and the control of human trafficking .

The new programme will be funded with an initial budget of €4 million. It is expected to start early 2012 and will initially be rolled out in Morocco and Tunisia. It will last for three years, and the main activities to be implemented will target all levels of government as well as parliaments and public structures. It will also focus on different organisations in the civil society and youth representatives.

These activities to be carried out will include experts' assessments and recommendations to streamline the existing legislation and practice, legal opinions and policy advice to improve the independence and efficiency of the judiciary, conferences, round tables and expert working groups to allow for exchanges and peer-reviews and training of young political leaders from the southern Mediterranean. Also, in order meet the needs of a still developing political context in the region, the programme will have the necessary flexibility to react to new and emerging priorities. Strong complementarity and coherence will also be ensured with other EU initiatives such as the SPRING programme or the future "European Endowment for Democracy".

As recalled by High Representative, Catherine Ashton, the European Union is strongly committed to provide all the help it can as its southern neighbours strive for a democratic future. This new programme is therefore part of EU's new approach to its neighbourhood as set out in May in the new European Neighbourhood Policy.