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Vice President of the European Union responsible for Institutional Relations
and Communication Strategy
The European Neighbourhood Policy and the Euro-Mediterranean
Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly
Let me first greet you in particular as an Egyptian presiding over the work of this first session hosted here in Cairo. These two circumstances are symbolic and reflect your country's commitment to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership since its inception. This commitment will be illustrated yet again at the upcoming inauguration in Alexandria of the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures.
Knowing Anna Lindh – she would have been proud of this foundation being realised.
Members of the Assembly,
There is no need for me to stress the importance the Commission attaches to the creation of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly. As you know, the Euro-Mediterranean partnership rests on three pillars: political, economic and social; meaning cultural and human. Since the launching of the Barcelona process, it has become apparent that these pillars were not equally strong and that whereas the economic and trade pillar was solid, those supporting the political, cultural and social aspects of the partnership were less so. The creation of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly, which has a political mandate above all (even if it deals with other issues), bolsters the Partnership's foundations. The Commission will cooperate closely with your Assembly, and of course take account of any suggestions, ideas and initiatives that it puts forward.
I wish to speak to you about a relatively new aspect of the EU's foreign policy, namely the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), and rather spell out the ENP’s relationship with the Barcelona process, which remains the nucleus of relations between the European Union and its southern Mediterranean partners.
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What does the European Neighbourhood Policy consist of ? It is based on a simple idea formulated by the Copenhagen European Council of December 2002 which stated that the Union should seize the opportunity offered by its enlargement to enhance relations with the neighbouring countries on the basis of shared values and avoid the creation of new divides within Europe.
To that end, the Council called for stronger relations with Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and the countries of the southern Mediterranean. This circle of neighbours has been extended to other countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The idea of the circle of friendly neighbouring countries has taken concrete shape over the last two years.
The main features of the Neighbourhood Policy are:
1) The new Neighbourhood Policy complements the Barcelona process.
2) The European Neighbourhood Policy has general objectives which are similar to the Mediterranean partnership and based on it, namely to work together with our partners to
3) These strands overlap with those defined in 1995 in Barcelona but with new stress on certain aspects.
The most important is the prospect of gradual participation in the EU internal market and its regulatory structures, including those relating to sustainable development (health, consumer and environmental protection), based on the approximation of legislation. More emphasis will also be put on integrating the two sides of the Mediterranean in transport, energy and telecommunications networks.
4) Differentiation is at the root of the new EU policy towards its neighbours and is implemented by action plans. These action plans will be tailor-made and set out strategic objectives and a timetable for achieving them.
5) This policy will be financed by a new neighbourhood instrument in support of this policy.
The European Neighbourhood Policy, when it was announced, provoked among our Mediterranean partners first surprise, then questions and even concern. Will this policy replace the Euro-Mediterranean policy, swallow it up or water it down? Would there be two policies for the same countries? What would be the relationship between the Neighbourhood Policy and the Euro-Mediterranean partnership? Some commentators pointed out certain contradictions between the Neighbourhood Policy and the Euro-Mediterranean policy. I see two main ones :
On the geo-political level, despite the differences that exist within the area, the Euro-Mediterranean partnership encompasses countries which geographically the Mediterranean draws closer together more than it divides them. Historically, these countries have seen their destinies intertwined, even if this was sometimes through conflict. The Euro-Mediterranean idea is highly symbolic. As for the neighbourhood policy, it has to be admitted that it concerns countries which are much more diverse.
Secondly, whereas the Euro-Mediterranean partnership approach is mainly regional, the Neighbourhood Policy is more bilateral and differentiates among the partners.
The few differences I have mentioned can be overcome. As it is a regional framework, we have to reiterate that the Barcelona process remains key to relations between the European Union and the southern Mediterranean.
But the differences in the Neighbourhood Policy approach should not be taken too far. The action plans already agreed with the first signatory Mediterranean countries contain differences. But they are also a bedrock of shared values and objectives which the Commission deems indispensable if we are to avoid diverging paths. It is more in the pace of progress that the divergences can exist.
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
The European Neighbourhood Policy does not replace the process launched ten years ago in Barcelona. It adds to it and make things happen.
Convergence between the two policies will be at the core of the Commission's communication ahead of the tenth anniversary of Barcelona Declaration. This communication, still in the pipeline, will propose for the next five years a limited number of initiatives with three main thrusts:
In conclusion, celebrating Barcelona must not simply be about marking the date. Anniversaries are about bringing us closer to events and not making them more remote. The European Neighbourhood Policy does not make Barcelona more remote, rather it brings it into sharper focus.
This Assembly meeting adds another dimension to our co-operation: country to country, people’s representatives to people’s representatives. This is an important event. We are looking forward to the conclusions and a follow-up in line with a high level of ambition.