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Brussels, 5 November 2012
Remarks of Commissioner Štefan Füle at the European Neighbourhood Policy Senior Officials meeting in Brussels
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to our meeting. I have always attached great importance to political dialogue with partners and to two-way communication between us.
As you know, the renewed ENP is based on the principles of differentiation and mutual accountability. Mutual accountability implies that our policy dialogue should be more open and more interactive. In other words, the ENP is not a one-way street. And this element of dialogue and of joint ownership is also the reason why we are having this meeting.
I welcome the opportunity to listen to your views and have an interaction with you. This will help us prepare the annual Communication on the ENP that we hope to release in March, together with Cathy Ashton.
Before I give the floor to all of you, let me make very brief introductory remarks.
The Southern neighbourhood of the EU has already seen significant breakthroughs toward democracy, rule of law and human rights. Historic elections have taken place in some of our partners. The EU has moved to support and bolster this change, by mobilizing more funds, by offering capacity-building and electoral assistance, stronger economic integration and support to civil society. Political dialogue has intensified. However, progress in other areas has been slower than I would have hoped for, notably on improving mobility and cooperation on other migration related issues.
The EU is coherent with its commitment to the emerging democracies and is engaging positively with the new leaderships and civil society organisations.
It is true that many people in Europe and elsewhere ask questions about the current transitions, or even whether it was not indeed better to deal with the former authoritarian regimes. This is very dangerous talk. First we should not forget Europe's own lengthy transition processes. Going from a closed and authoritarian regime to a functioning democracy is not a process that takes weeks or months. So I want to tell you that we will continue to accompany you during the lengthy transition process.
And we would be making a huge political error if Europe was sending the signal that we have more reservations in dealing with democratically elected governments than with the authoritarian regimes of the past. We should not be afraid of the new freedoms gained by our partners and we should continue to have confidence in the capacities of democracies to fight against extremism.
The renewed ENP is also based on the principle of "more for more", which means a stronger partnership with the EU for those countries that make more progress toward democratic and socio-economic reform. But let me be clear with you: the EU cannot impose anything on you. The direction, pace and comprehensiveness of your reforms is a matter of your own sovereign political decision.
I believe that we all need to do more. More progress toward democracy, rule of law and human rights. More developed partnerships between the EU and its partners. More effective implementation of reforms, but also more attentive EU listening to partners' needs.
We also intend to give renewed impetus to regional cooperation. The Union for the Mediterranean has a key role to play. With the EU assuming the Union for Mediterranean (UfM) Northern Co-presidency and Jordan as Southern Co-president, we are working closely together to bring new impetus and more coherence to UfM activities. We need to actively work all together to ensure the holding of important UfM Ministerial meetings in 2013, in particular those on transport and energy. Your support to ensure their success is very important.
Many thanks for a rich, frank and open discussion. I think that this is what real partnerships between friends should be based on. My colleagues and I have taken good note.
This discussion has provided many useful elements that we will take into account in view of the preparation of the 2013 ENP package. The adoption of this package is scheduled for March. I expect that the communication accompanying this package will focus on the assessment of the concrete implementation of our policy, and will also make a strong call for policy coherence on the EU side to use more effectively all the tools that the EU can deploy to support democratic and socio-economic reform in our neighbourhood.
It will be very important for partners to keep up the momentum of reform, and for the EU to support this momentum effectively, so that we can move closer and closer to the vision of the ENP: of a strong partnership between the EU and its neighbours for democracy, security and shared prosperity.