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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 November 2005, 20:27 GMT
Euro-Med talks kick off in Spain
Illuminated backdrop outlining summit's aims
An illuminated backdrop lists the summit's aims in Barcelona
A meeting of leaders from the 25 EU nations and their counterparts from nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea has kicked off in Barcelona, Spain.

Co-operation on combating the spread of terrorism and controlling illegal immigration are set to dominate talks.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are the only non-EU heads of state attending the summit.

The two-day summit is being chaired by UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

With many top Arab leaders absent, major announcements are unlikely, a BBC correspondent says.

This year's Euro-Med meeting marks a decade of co-operation between the neighbouring countries.

It is the first time a Euro-Med meeting is being attended by heads of government and state.

The Barcelona Process began 10 years ago. It brings together the 25 EU members plus Turkey, Israel, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

Terror debate

Newly-elected German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, making her first summit appearance as leader in Barcelona, is expected to hold talks on the sidelines with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Spanish police outside the conference building in Barcelona
Security has been tightened for the summit

The focus of the meeting is likely to be Turkey's ambition of joining the EU, a process set in motion last month when Brussels began membership talks with Ankara.

Mrs Merkel is known to oppose Turkey's entry bid, unlike her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, who was one of its more ardent supporters.

Also on the sidelines of the summit, Mr Blair met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and urged him to maintain the "right dialogue with Israel".

Delegates at the talks are expected to agree a common stance on several key issues by Monday afternoon.

Diplomats quoted by the Associated Press news agency say a declaration condemning terrorism remains troublesome, with several Arab nations arguing that a distinction be drawn between terrorists and freedom fighters.

"As always, there will be negotiations until the end but I am optimistic we will get an agreement," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Reforms

Once there were hopes that a free trade bloc might be created amongst the Euro-Med countries by 2010.

But the BBC's Johnny Dymond in Barcelona says that now seems unlikely.

The EU has given more than 6bn ($11bn) in aid to its Mediterranean partners over the last 10 years.

But the latter are disappointed that business investment has not followed, says our correspondent.

British officials and some human rights groups say they want future aid to be more closely linked to progress in democratic reforms and human rights.

Our correspondent says the EU's focus has shifted too over the last few years.

He says there is much more concern now about immigration from southern states and the threat from militants based in North Africa and the Middle East.

He adds that organisers hope agreements of substance can be made, but the absence of leaders from half of the non-EU states represented may well make that impossible.


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