European Investment Bank (EIB) President Philippe Maystadt, opening the Seventh EIB Forum on the theme "Cooperation across the Mediterranean"in Sorrento, Italy, called for ever stronger Euro-Mediterranean cooperation to ensure stability and development in the region.

Philippe Maystadt said: "Mediterranean countries wanting to benefit from the increased opportunities of a free-trade area with the EU, foreseen for 2010, must work harder to modernise their economies and introduce the needed structural reforms to generate growth and attract foreign investment. The European Union is ready to support this process, but the Mediterranean countries must play their part in ensuring macro-economic stability and introducing fiscal and legal transparency. This will give the Barcelona process a fresh impetus and also enable the region to benefit from the effects of further EU enlargement".

"Sustainable development in the region can only be effected through ever-closer partnership between all countries and economic players. Developing further "south-south" co-operation in the region is essential. For its part, the EIB is ready to accelerate its financing to complement local and international sources of finance, acting as a catalyst to help "make things happen". In addition to the Bank's Barcelona process mandate of EUR 6.4 billion, we have established a new EUR 1 billion facility for large cross-regional projects in the fields of transport, energy and environment".

During the Forum's two day sessions, some 400 specialists from government and political circles, as well as administrative, industrial and banking sectors reviewed the achievements of the Barcelona Process and discussed the factors for success and failure of economic development of the region.

From EU countries speakers included Laurent Fabius and Didier Reynders, Ministers of Finance of France and Belgium respectively, as well as Miquel Nadal Segalá, Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and Guliano Amato, former Prime Minister of Italy. From Mediterranean Partner Countries speakers included ministers from Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey. Pedro Solbes Mira, Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, represented the European Commission. A special highlight of the Forum was the dinner speech by Predrag Matvejevic, author and writer, Professor at La Sorbonne (Paris) and La Sapienza (Rome) Universities.