The Euro-Arab liaison office, aimed at facilitating dialogue between the European Commission and the Arab league, opens in Floriana today. The siting of the EU-financed office in Malta was the result of a compromise reached last November when Malta accepted to withdraw its bid to host the secretariat of the Mediterranean Union while still holding one of the six posts of deputy secretary general.

The island's compromise, reached during the Med Union Foreign Ministers' meeting in Marseilles, opened the way for Barcelona to take up the seat.

While Malta preferred the first option, the compromise seems to have resulted in more tangible results because the Med Union process remains stuck due to differences of opinion between the EU and the nations in the Arab League.

"This is a small but significant beginning," Foreign Affairs Minister Tonio Borg, who negotiated last year's deal, said when contacted.

The office, which will have an initial injection of €500,00 from EU coffers, will be coordinated by officials from the European Commission, the Arab League and Malta.

Ranier Fsadni, a University lecturer and a columnist of The Times, has been selected by the government to be the first Maltese officer assigned to the office.

The mission of the office is to coordinate efforts and initiatives in promoting dialogue between the EU and the Arab world.

The office will be inaugurated today by Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, the EU's External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner and the Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

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