Brussels, 22 March 2004
7383/04 (Presse 80)
2572nd Council meeting - External Relations - Brussels, 22 March 2004
* The 2571st meeting on General Affairs is the subject of a separate press release (7380/04 Presse 79)
Western Balkans Council conclusions 5
MIDDLE EAST 6
Assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin Council conclusions 6
Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East - Council conclusions 7
Iran Council conclusions 7
EUASIA RELATIONS PREPARATION OF ASEM MEETING IN APRIL 8
UN Commission on Human Rights Council conclusions 8
OTHER BUSINESS 9
EVENTS in the margins of the Council 10
Meeting between the EU and the Council of Europe 10
1 €? Where declarations, conclusions or resolutions have been formally adopted by the Council, this is indicated in the heading for the item concerned and the text is placed between quotation marks.
€? The documents whose references are given in the text are available on the Council's Internet site
€? Acts adopted with statements for the Council minutes which may be released to the public are indicated by an asterisk; these statements are available on the above mentioned Council Internet site or may be obtained from the Press Office.
€? Some external relations items were adopted without debate in the framework of the "General Affairs" meeting of the Council. See communiqué of that meeting, doc. 7380/04.
The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
NOTE: The acceding countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia) align themselves on the conclusions on the Western Balkans, on the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, on an EU Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East, on Iran and on the preparation of the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights
Western Balkans Council conclusions
The Council discussed the situation in the Western Balkans, notably in the light of recent events in Kosovo. After its discussion, it adopted the following conclusions :
€- Serbia and Montenegro / Kosovo
"The Council called for an immediate and definitive end to the violence, which has claimed lives and caused injury to large numbers of people in Kosovo in recent days. The Council condemned in the strongest possible terms all acts of ethnically motivated violence, the loss of lives and damage to property, and the destruction of religious and cultural heritage which is the common property of all Europeans. It further condemned attacks on the troops of KFOR and on the personnel and sites of UNMIK. It expressed its full support for the efforts of SRSG Harri Holkeri, UNMIK and KFOR to stabilise the situation, including measures in favour of the rapid return of persons displaced by the recent acts of violence.
The Council stressed that the priority was to avoid further violence and loss of life, to restore calm in Kosovo as well as to preserve regional stability. It called on all leaders, in particular the Kosovo Albanian leadership, to take responsibility for the situation and to ensure, through their actions and statements, that threats and violence end. Those responsible for the violence must be brought to justice. The Council expected both sides to refrain from provocative acts. It further stressed that extremist forces have no role to play in settling Kosovo's future. Kosovo's leaders and the PISG must be aware that what is at stake is their credibility, the future of Kosovo and its European perspective. They must act accordingly. Protection of the rights of members of all communities is essential.
The Council considered that last week's events constitute a serious setback to Kosovo. It reaffirmed the strong support of the European Union for SRSG Holkeri in his work to ensure the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1244. The Council reaffirmed its commitment to a stable future for a secure, democratic, prosperous and multi-ethnic Kosovo with its place in Europe.
The Council invited the SG/HR to visit Kosovo as soon as possible and to report on his findings and assessments."
€- Serbia and Montenegro
"The Council reaffirmed its readiness to cooperate with the new Serbian Government and to continue to engage in a constructive dialogue with Belgrade. It recalled that cooperation must be based on the shared commitment to the agenda for the Western Balkans agreed at the Thessaloniki Summit in June 2003. It underlined that further progress towards European integration required concrete action to implement political and economic reforms, including: the fulfilment of international obligations, in particular full cooperation with ICTY; the strengthening of the rule of law, including the independence of the judiciary; progress in the fight against organised crime; and continued reconciliation and cooperation with neighbouring countries.
The Council urged all democratic parties to cooperate to ensure progress in this direction and to promote political stability. It also emphasised the importance of a constructive approach by Belgrade on the standards implementation process in Kosovo, and welcomed the progress made in the past two weeks in the direct dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.
The Council confirmed its support for the effective functioning and stability of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro and emphasised the need for early progress on the implementation of the Constitutional Charter and of commitments on economic harmonisation.
The Council noted that real progress on all these issues would enable further progress by Serbia and Montenegro towards the EU, in the framework of the Stabilisation and Association Process."
€- Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
"On the day of the presentation of the application by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for membership of the European Union, the Council recalled the decisive contribution of the late President Boris Trajkovski to reconciliation and to the consolidation of democracy. It called on all political forces to continue to work constructively in the period ahead towards his vision of a stable, multiethnic, unitary country, moving closer to European integration through full implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement."
"The Council condemned the extra-judicial killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and seven other Palestinians by Israeli forces this morning. The European Union has consistently opposed extra-judicial killings. Not only are extra-judicial killings contrary to international law, they undermine the concept of the rule of law which is a key element in the fight against terrorism.
The European Union has repeatedly condemned the terrorist atrocities committed by Hamas which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israelis. The EU recognises Israel's right to protect its citizens against terrorist attacks. Israel is entitled to do this under international law. Israel is not, however, entitled to carry out extra-judicial killings. Furthermore, the assassination which has just been carried out has inflamed the situation. The Council called on all sides to exercise restraint and to refrain from acts of violence, which will only lead to more deaths and will put a peaceful settlement still further from reach.
Violence is no substitute for the political negotiations which are necessary for a just and lasting settlement. The Quartet Roadmap remains the basis for reaching such a settlement."
The Council adopted the following conclusions :
"1. The Council considered the interim report prepared by the Presidency, Council Secretariat and Commission, entitled "An EU Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East".
They welcomed this report, and mandated its authors to pursue intensive consultations with the countries involved on the basis of its principles.
The Council noted the intention to prepare a final report based on the outcome of these consultations which will set out the EU Strategy as mandated by the December European Council.
The Council looks forward to the consideration of this report by the European Council at its June session."
The interim report can be found in annex to this press release.
Iran Council conclusions
The Council adopted the following conclusions :
"1. The Council discussed the Iranian nuclear programme in the light of the recent meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors (8-13 March).
2. The Council welcomed the adoption, without a vote, on 13 March 2004 of a Board of Governors' resolution on the issue of Iran's nuclear programme and called on Iran to comply fully with its provisions. The Council expects Iran to cooperate with the Agency fully and to ensure that all future inspections can take place without delay.
The Council welcomed Iran's signature of the Additional Protocol, recalled that Iran has committed itself to act in accordance with its provisions, pending its entry into force, and urged its implementation and early ratification.
Recalling that the resolution by the IAEA Board of Governors stated that the declarations made by Iran in October 2003 did not amount to the complete and final picture of Iran's past and present nuclear programme, the Council expressed serious concern that a number of questions in relation to Iran's nuclear programme remain outstanding. It urged Iran to provide full and proactive cooperation with the Agency in resolving all such questions in a spirit of full transparency.
The Council welcomed the decision by Iran of 24 February 2004 to extend the scope of its suspension of enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, and its confirmation that the suspension applies to all facilities in Iran. It calls on Iran to start, in accordance with this decision, immediately, comprehensively and verifiably with the full supsension of all such activities; and in order to build up confidence henceforth to refrain from all fuel cycle activities which can also be used to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons.
The Council commends the Director General of the IAEA and his staff for their work and fully supports them in their efforts to resolve and clarify outstanding issues.
7. The Council decided to continue to closely monitor the situation including developments relating to the next report of the Director General of the Agency in May for consideration by the June Board of Governors."
EUASIA RELATIONS PREPARATION OF ASEM MEETING IN APRIL
The Council took stock of preparations for the AsiaEurope Foreign Ministers Meeting (ASEM) at Kildare on 17 and 18 April, and examined approaches to be explored with the Asian side regarding the request of Burma/Myanmar to participate at the fifth ASEM summit at Hanoi on 8 and 9 October.
The Presidency will continue consultations in order to find a solution on this issue, taking into consideration the EU's policy vis-à-vis the Burma/Myanmar regime.
UN Commission on Human Rights Council conclusions
The Council adopted the following conclusions on preparations for the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, being held in Geneva until 23 April.
"1. At the start of the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Council examined and endorsed the EU's position regarding action in that forum. The EU is determined to continue to play, in cooperation with other participants, a major role at the CHR, which it considers to be the primary UN body for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. The EU will contribute to ensuring that the CHR acts as effectively as possible in the pursuit of those goals.
The Council welcomed the recent appointment of Judge Louise Arbour as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and once again reiterated its strong support for the High Commissioner and for the work of her Office in the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.
The Council again underlined the importance it attaches to the system of special mechanisms that the CHR has developed over the years and recalled that special rapporteurs and other mechanisms have a duty to respond to credible and reliable information that they receive. The Council reiterated the EU's long-standing position on full cooperation with special rapporteurs and special procedures within the CHR.
The Council noted that the EU will present a significant number of geographic and thematic initiatives at the CHR. The European Union will table resolutions on the issue of the death penalty, on the rights of the child (jointly with the GRULAC), and on religious intolerance. It will also put forward resolutions addressing the human rights situation in Burma/Myanmar,
Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Russian Federation (Chechnya), Sudan, and Zimbabwe, as well as the question of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. In addition, it will propose initiatives on Turkmenistan and Belarus jointly with the United States. The EU will work with the governments of Colombia and Timor Leste to secure the adoption of Chair's statements in relation to human rights in those countries. The Presidency, on behalf of the European Union, will moreover make a general statement to convey its serious concerns about the situation in certain countries and welcome signs of progress, as well as statements on many of the different thematic human rights issues under consideration.
The Council stressed the importance it attaches to dialogue with third countries in the human rights field generally, and most particularly in the context of the CHR. It recalls that it has engaged in dialogue with the governments of China and Iran on human rights issues. In the view of the European Union, such dialogues do not preclude appropriate consideration by the CHR of the human rights situation in those countries.
6. Concertation and cooperation between states, members or observers, will be key to the success of this session, and the EU will make every effort to achieve that end. In this regard, the Council reiterated the EU's long-standing opposition to the use of no-action motions, which are, in its view, contrary to the spirit of dialogue that should prevail in the CHR. The EU stands ready to support third countries' initiatives that promote the cause of human rights around the world. In addition to the various initiatives that will be proposed by EU Member States in their national capacities, the EU also looks forward to engaging with others in support of appropriately worded texts emanating from third countries on issues such as racism, violence against women, the protection of human rights whilst countering terrorism, non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and economic, social and cultural rights."
The Council had a brief exchange of views, following its in-depth discussion in February, in particular on the question of the extension of the EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) to the new Member States. It noted that contacts were ongoing to ensure that the extension was in place by 1 May.
EVENTS in the margins of the Council
The President of the Council and Commissioner Chris Patten met with Dr Bernard Bot, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and Chairmaninoffice of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, and Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General, for the 20th quadripartite meeting between the Council of Europe and the European Union. The meeting covered institutional developments, issues of common interest and joint programmes and initiatives, in particular regarding Belarus, the South Caucasus (Georgia) and the Western Balkans.
Interim Report on an
EU Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East
The December 2003 European Council asked the Presidency and SG/HR, in coordination with the Commission, to present concrete proposals on a strategy towards the region of the Middle East. This paper addresses this question and the related mandate from the European Council on developing relations with the Arab world.
Purpose of this Report
The purpose of this interim report is threefold:
Progress to date
This first phase in developing an EU Strategy has been used primarily to explore the views of EU partners on this issue. Since December there have been eight substantive discussions: in Working Groups (COMAG/COMEM), by Political Directors, in the Political and Security Committee, in COREPER and at the GAERC on 23 February. Fourteen EU partners have submitted formal papers. In addition the Commission and HR/SG have contributed inputs.
It is envisaged that the next phase (April-June 2004) will be directed primarily at consulting with the partners in the region. This point is key. EU relations with our partners in the region have been built on consultation. There is a view in the region that its perspectives have not been fully taken into account in the development of the current initiative. While there has already been contact with partners in the region at both official and political level, the period up to the European Council in June 2004 will provide a vital platform for active consultation with the countries of the region. This paper proposes a set of objectives and the development of Work Programmes, which might be the basis for consultation with the region.
There have been a number of important developments in recent months in respect of the region. These include the development of this strategy, the creation of the Neighbourhood policy, the mandate from the Naples Euro-Mediterranean Ministerial meeting, other proposals by individual EU Member States and the Greater Middle East initiative of the United States.
The Union should use the period ahead to explain the objectives and the opportunities of the EU's strategy and to develop a sense of shared ownership of it by our partners in the region.
Following this period of consultation it is envisaged that the EU strategy and the means to implement it will be adopted at the European Council in June 2004.
2. EU Partners shared understandings
Europe and the region are joined together by history and geography. The Mediterranean Sea has linked our peoples for centuries. A growing number of EU citizens have origins in the countries of the region. It is in our shared interest to build a common zone of peace, prosperity and progress.
The EU and its partners in the region share two major principles in respect of the proposed strategy:
Discussions to date have, in addition, revealed a number of other shared perspectives in respect of the proposed EU strategy including the following:
3. The challenges facing the countries of the region
While different countries face different challenges, there are particular challenges facing the majority of countries in the region. These are well known and have been extensively set out elsewhere, including in the relevant UNDP Human Development Reports. Political, economic and social reform is required in order to meet these challenges. Such reforms cannot be imposed from outside. They must be generated from within. The key impetus for movement is the high expectations of a predominantly young population more than half of those living in the region are under eighteen. They need education and jobs. Political stability requires that these young people can achieve a stake in their society. How to achieve this is the major challenge facing the governments of the region.
4. How is the EU currently engaged in the region?
Although the EU has a Common Strategy for the Mediterranean region, there is currently no overarching set of objectives governing the EU's relations with all the countries concerned by this report. There is general agreement that we should differentiate between the Mediterranean countries, where we have a solid and substantial set of cooperation activities in place, and elsewhere in the region where our framework for relations is generally less substantial, e.g. east of Jordan. We should work on parallel tracks seeking articulation between our actions in the region where appropriate.
The development of an EU strategic partnership for the region should provide a set of objectives and principles through which the developments outlined below in respect of the countries of the region can be carried forward.
Middle East Peace Process (MEPP)
The Middle East Peace Process is also a major preoccupation of the EU's external relations policy. A commitment to finding a solution to this conflict is highlighted in the EU Security Strategy. The Union is active in seeking a peaceful settlement, including through its presence in the Quartet and in a variety of other fora. In order to contribute better to the resolution of the conflict the Council has appointed an EU Special Representative to the MEPP.
The EU reiterates its commitment to regional economic reconstruction.
Progress on the resolution of the Middle East conflict cannot be a pre-condition for confronting the urgent reform challenges facing the countries of the region, nor vice versa. But it is clear that it will not be possible to build a common zone of peace, prosperity and progress unless a just and lasting settlement of the conflict is in place. The lack of clear prospects for peace is already making it harder for reformers in the region to succeed.
The countries of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership - Europe's neighbours
Europe's ancient links with its immediate neighbourhood (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and the soon-to-accede countries Cyprus and Malta) found new expression in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP) created in 1995.
EMP a comprehensive framework
Created in the wake of positive developments in the Middle East Peace Process, the objectives of the EMP include fostering a relationship covering political and security dialogue, economic relations, including the creation of a Free Trade Area (FTA), and social and human relations. Political dialogue under the EMP offers opportunities to discuss WMD, terrorism and human rights and the EU has been developing policies over recent years for the conduct of these talks. It remains the only forum where Israel, Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority (and Libya, currently as observer) sit together.
The creation of a free trade area, together with substantial financial support to promote modernisation, is a key aspect of the EMP. The EU has now signed Association Agreements with all but one of the Mediterranean partners. When the full ring of Association Agreements is in force the North-South free trade framework will be in place. The relationships established through the Association Agreements have also helped the countries achieve important successes in the area of economic reform. These include the adoption of fiscal and sectoral reforms (transport, financial services and telecommunications); upgrading of manufacturing industry; and promotion of regional integration by adopting common rules of origin. It is envisaged that the work on sub-regional south-south integration, e.g. through the recently signed Agadir Agreement, will be built upon.
The EU is the most important regional economic power and the dominant trade partner in the region. In addition the EU contributes between €800M-€1bn per annum in MEDA programme and other support. Including EIB loans the EU's financial assistance to the region approaches €3 billion per year.
Co-ordination of different EU financial instruments will make them more effective, with funds and technical assistance flowing more rapidly and more effectively.
Neighbourhood Policy Deepening the EMP
The EU's Neighbourhood Policy will deepen relations with countries in the EMP and will be a valuable instrument in the Union's continued engagement with these partners. Through it the EU can offer a more intensive political dialogue and greater access to EU programmes and policies, including the Single Market, as well as reinforced cooperation on justice and home affairs. Such close and cooperative relations will depend on a better mutual understanding of security concerns and the strengthening of commitments to common values and common principles. It will be important to discuss issues such as positive conditionality and incentives as the Action Plans envisaged under the Neighbourhood Policy are developed in the coming period. In contact with our partners in the region, we should clearly situate the Neighbourhood Action Plans in the context of a reinforcement of the Barcelona Process. The policy, based on country differentiation, represents an essential plank in the implementation of the strategic partnership as it relates to the Mediterranean countries.
Follow-up to the Naples Ministerial: reflection on EMP
Further reflection on the EMP is taking place in line with the mandate set out by Ministers at the Naples Ministerial. The aim here is also to enhance the effectiveness of the partnership.
Following its announcement on WMD last December relations with Libya are set to improve (particularly if progress can be made on resolving outstanding issues with individual Member States) and eventual membership of Libya in the EMP will hopefully follow.
Mauritania is a member of the Arab Maghreb Union, a significant regional organisation within the geographical scope of the initiative, and one in which several other EMP members are participants. Mauritania will be included in the current initiative taking full account of existing instruments, i.e. the Cotonou Agreement and the structures emanating from it.
Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council
The EU's relationship through its Cooperation Agreement with the countries of the GCC (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar) is currently focussed primarily on trade and economic issues. Negotiations on an FTA are ongoing. There is a clear need for a broader agenda. The Cooperation Agreement has allowed for a limited political dialogue, but this has not reflected the strategic significance of the countries involved. This dialogue should be broadened, deepened and become more inter-active. There is a need also for greater dialogue with the individual countries of the GCC.
There is already a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with Yemen and a formal political dialogue is likely to commence this year.
With Iran there are negotiations pending for a TCA and a parallel political agreement. The EU has also engaged in a "Comprehensive Dialogue" and a "Human Rights Dialogue" with Iran.
There are no formal relations with Iraq though preparations are underway for a Medium-Term Strategy, which will make proposals for future relations with a sovereign Iraqi government. The EU plays a role in supporting reconstruction in particular through the World Bank and the UN.
5. What should be the EU's overarching objectives in dealing with the region?
The EU's overall engagement could be underpinned by a series of overarching objectives and principles in line inter alia with the European Security Strategy. These should take into account concerns for the security of the region and for that of the Union itself.
Eleven Union Objectives and Principles
Eleven Key Objectives and Principles of the Union in respect of the strategy might include the
The primary objective is to promote the development, through partnership, of a common zone of peace, prosperity and progress. The goal is to enjoy close and cooperative relations responding as far as possible to demands from within the region.
The partnership strategy will include, primarily, relations between the EU and the countries of North Africa and the Middle East.
Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict will be a strategic priority. Neither progress on the MEPP nor reform in the region should be a precondition for the other. Both are desirable in their own right and should be pursued in partnership with equal determination.
Partnership should involve a long-term and sustained engagement
Partnership requires a strengthening of the Union's political dialogue with the region.
The EU will avail itself of opportunities provided through the dialogue in partnership to promote its concerns regarding respect for human rights and the rule of law.
The EU will avail itself of opportunities provided through partnership with the countries of the region to promote action and cooperation on terrorism, WMD and non-proliferation.
The EU will work in partnership to support internally driven reforms in the economic, political and social spheres through engagement with state and civil actors bearing in mind the framework of the relevant UNDP Human Development reports in terms of advancing knowledge (education), freedom (governance) and women's empowerment.
The EU will promote enhanced security dialogue with the region including through its own initiatives aimed at Mediterranean partners within the framework of the ESDP on the one hand, and through exchanges of views within the fora linking NATO and the European Union on the other.
Modernisation of the regulatory environment, and liberalisation of import and export trade, will facilitate the EU to promote WTO membership for countries of the region and will contribute to the improvement of the business environment.
The EU will also work closely with the US, the UN and other external actors in pursuit of these goals.
The EU will implement its strategy for the region primarily through existing instruments and, where appropriate, new instruments. The principal idea is to reinforce the existing instruments on which our partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East are based, in coordination with the countries in the region, through the development by the appropriate EU institutions of Work Programmes for the countries involved covering political, security, economic and social spheres. The Work Programme for the Mediterranean countries should draw on the implementation of the EU's Neighbourhood Policy.
The EU will reflect on the implications any increase in the level of our ambition in the region will have for existing resources both financial and human.
Consultation with the Region
It is envisaged that there would be active consultation with our partners in the region in the coming months on shared objectives and principles of our partnership efforts and on elements for the Work Programmes to accomplish these.
The Presidency, the High Representative and the Commission should make use of contacts with Arab partners, including at the Summit of the League of Arab States in Tunis, 29-30 March, 2004, to present our vision and to encourage a locally owned approach on the questions covered by this strategy.
Full use should be made of bilateral opportunities to intensify this dialogue in the coming months including through the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership Mid-Term Ministerial Meeting on 5-6 May 2004 and at the EU-GCC Ministerial meeting on 18 May 2004.
6. How do we ensure complementarity with other external actors in the region?
Greater Middle East Initiative
The US has been promoting an initiative for the region over the last two years, in particular through keynote speeches by President Bush and other senior administration figures. The US proposals centre on the "Greater Middle East" (incorporating Pakistan and Afghanistan) and focus on democratisation, economic reform and education working primarily in a programmatic manner. The US has proposed joint declarations on the region at three major June Summits (EU-US, G8 and NATO).
An EU response
While the Union should continue to pursue its own distinct strategy, we should welcome the possibility to work together and to co-ordinate with the US in the framework of the Transatlantic Partnership. The Union should define a complementary but distinct approach. The Union should adopt a proactive approach on this matter. The Presidency, the High Representative and the Commission should maintain active engagement with the US in the lead-up to June.
G8 Summit (Sea Island, 8-10 June, 2004)
In the G8 process a Declaration on a Common Future has been suggested. It is envisaged that this might respond to a statement at the Tunis Arab League Summit. It is also envisaged that the elements in this paper might be drawn on by the EU G8 members, the Commission and the Presidency.
EU-US Summit (26 June, 2004)
At the EU-US Summit both parties could spell out their shared readiness to assist the countries of the region in their efforts to bring about political, economic and social development. We could set out the extent of our individual efforts in this regard and stress our determination to work together, including through our parallel dialogue with the countries of the region.
NATO Summit (Istanbul, 28-29 June, 2004)
At the NATO Summit, NATO is likely to present a set of initiatives aimed at strengthening its Mediterranean Dialogue and offering countries in the Middle East proposals in the field of security. The Summit could call for an EU-NATO dialogue within the relevant fora (NAC/PSC) on their respective initiatives.
The EU needs to raise the level of its engagement with the region. It is an area of enormous strategic significance for Europe. It faces serious challenges requiring political, economic and social reform. The drive and initiative to take on these challenges and to implement the necessary reforms must come from within the region itself. The Union must work in partnership with the region to help it meet these challenges. Our goal should be to create a common zone of peace, prosperity and progress. The Union should adopt a set of guiding principles for its engagement and implement these primarily through sharpening the focus of existing instruments and ensuring coherence between them. Success in this endeavour will be of mutual benefit to Europe and the region.