EURO FILE

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The Independent Online
The EU is moving more cautiously into the Mediterranean as well, with France - now in the chair of the Union - taking a leading role.

On Monday ministers agreed a statement of support for peace in Algeria and bemoaned Sunday's bomb attack in Israel , but neither statement had much political weight or depth.

More substantively, the ministers opened negotiations with Egypt on a new "Euro-Med" association agreement, the fourth of its kind (the others are under negotiation with Israel, Morocco and Tunisia).

The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, said on Monday that he was confident these would be signed before summer. Talks with Jordan will start later this year. The idea is to create a "Euro-Med" area, but as yet this idea lacks definition.

Making EU foreign policy work in the Mediterranean will also be a principal focus for the Spanish, who take over the chairmanship of the EU in June and plan a special conference.

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