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Štefan Füle: European Neighbourhood Policy Midterm Review is a timely exercise

 

“If the EU wants to become a credible global player, it should start from its Neighbourhood,” Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle has told Members of the European Parliament.
 
He was speaking before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the occasion of the European Neighbourhood Policy Review, calling it a “very timely exercise”.
 
He said the Lisbon Treaty had created the conditions for the EU to become a global player and in the months and years to come, it must demonstrate its capacity to act convincingly in the Neighbourhood, using all the instruments and opportunities for joined-up action offered by the Treaty.
 
The Commissioner said the European Commission was in the middle of the consultation process, and contributions had already been received from almost all Member States and ENP partner countries, experts and academics, while a meeting with Civil Society organizations was expected in ten days.
 
And although “drawing conclusions at this stage of the process would be premature, we can start by identifying a number of emerging issues on which to reflect further,” he continued. 
 
The Commissioner went on to raise three questions outlined in the letter addressed to High Representative Catherine Ashton and to EU and partner countries’ Foreign Ministers last July:
  • What should be our vision for the ENP within a 10-15 year horizon?
  • What should be the medium-term objectives we pursue, broadly speaking, during the term of this Parliament and Commission?
  • What can we improve in terms of our instruments and resources?
In his comments about the future vision of the European Neighbourhood Policy, he said although there was a clear demand for a strong ENP and all our partners wanted stronger relations with the EU, the “expectations are high and the EU needs to be unambiguous about what it can offer to its neighbours and what it expects from them in return,” stressing that in his view “we have not always been so clear”.
“Often the EU has shied away from expressing its expectations on shared values,” he said, adding: “We should be more forceful in underlining that good governance and political reform are not ‘optional’ elements of our policy offer but go hand in hand with deepened political and economic relations”. And when it comes to European integration he also elaborated on “important gaps between the partners’ expectations and what the EU may be prepared to offer”.
 
Commissioner Füle then focused on the issues in the areas that should attract the attention in the medium term. Among them political steering of relationships, DCFTAs, easier mobility, protracted conflicts and the EU involvement in resolving them, deepening sectoral co-operation, involvement of civil society, and the question of the regional specificities within the neighbourhood and of the partner countries contribution to the overall objectives of EU.
 
On this last issue, the Commissioner explained: “A tailor-made approach towards the various regions of the Neighbourhood should remain a key characteristic of the ENP. Moreover I am persuaded that the ENP should promote regional co-operation among ENP partners, particularly in the context of the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean which are the main, although not the only, ENP regional dimensions”. He also said that “The ENP Action Plans have proven their worth as a central policy implementation tool. Now that we come to a second generation, we need to make them more focused and better linked to the partner countries’ reform agenda and to the financial resources necessary to implement them.”
 
The Commissioner described the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) as “a step change in the way we deliver our assistance”,saying thatmany underline that more should be done to link the reform priorities of ENP Action Plans with financial co-operation — and that financial assistance should be delivered more rapidly, with less red tape and with the flexibility to respond to emerging needs.”  Here he asked for the European Parliament’s support on the matter.
 
In his reflections on the main EU initiatives in the Neighbourhood, the Commissioner said, “With the Eastern Partnership the EU has established an ambitious agenda for deepening relations with the six Eastern partners, both bilaterally and as a group. Eighteen months after the Prague Summit there has been much progress on establishing new contractual relations and multilateral co-operation has become very intense. The ENP review offers us an opportunity to look at these first achievements and prepare successfully the Summit in Budapest next May.”
 
And “The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) is also moving forward. In spite of the political difficulties related to the Middle East Peace Process, the Secretariat is about to be established and much work has been done on the projects that the UfM will support. We need to identify, as part of the review, practical ways to contribute to the implementation of this initiative. We must help it deliver on its essential objective of generating the jobs, the growth and the innovation capacity that are acutely needed in the Mediterranean region within the years to come”.
 
Stefan Füle concluded his speech with an announcement that on February 1 together with Catherine Ashton he would invite EU Member States and ENP Partners to a Ministerial conference. “We expect this conference to provide us with guidance for the proposals that we will put forward in April in a Communication to the Council and the European Parliament.” (ENPI Info Centre)
 
Štefan Füle speech
 
ENPI Info Centre webpage – European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
 
ENPI Info Centre webpage - Eastern Partnership
 
ENPI Info Centre webpage – Union for the Mediterranean

 

 


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