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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Address to the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET)
Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED
Strasbourg, 17 May 2010
I am very pleased to meet with you today to present to you the new ‘ENP package’ and to discuss with you ENP and Enlargement Policy priorities in 2010-2011 under our Structured Dialogue.
On 12 May, the Commission adopted a new Communication accompanied by country and sectoral reports on the implementation of the ENP. As the new Commission is at the outset of its term, we used this opportunity to take stock of the first five years of implementation of the ENP from 2004 to 2009, rather than limiting ourselves to a one-year perspective.
Our assessment is that the European Neighbourhood Policy has transformed relations between the EU and its neighbours. Since its launch in 2004, political contacts have increased in profile and intensity.
Trade has increased at double digit rates, aided by a steady process of liberalisation and regulatory convergence. During the last five years exports were rising by 63% and imports by 91%. Market opening thus benefits both the EU and the partners.
Legislation on human rights and fundamental freedoms has also improved. However, as we all know, implementation still raises concerns. The need to encourage further governance reforms remains pressing, as it is crucial for the well-being of the citizens, for political stability and for economic growth in our neighbourhood.
There is progress on mobility issues, but more needs to be done. The issue of mobility, including visas, hampers cooperation with our partner in all other areas, be it trade and investment, people-to-people contact or sectoral cooperation. In the Communication we point to what we think could be done to make progress with both our Eastern and Southern partners, in full respect of security and other constraints – I see this as a core issue for the credibility of our policy!
Overall, the Communication shows that the EU, despite the difficult context, has established a real partnership for reform with our neighbours. This has brought tangible results benefiting both sides. But more, much more, is needed to sustain reform, particularly in a context where EU accession is not on offer.
EU assistance has been tailored to partners’ reform needs and its volume in the current Financial Framework has increased by 32 % in comparison with 1999-2006. Most of the financial resources (75%) are allocated to bilateral programmes, with the remaining funds going to regional, multi-country programmes and cross-border cooperation.
The country progress reports evaluate what our neighbours accomplished on the basis of their ENP Action Plans – their "reform menus" - in 2009, and highlight what they should have done, or done better.
This "annual check-up" is far from being a technical exercise. It is politically very important to monitor reforms, not least to keep up the momentum.
We know how interlinked we are in a globalised world, and therefore, reforms in our partner countries impact on our mutual prosperity, stability and security.
As last year, the picture is very varied. Some of our partners have made considerable advances in sectoral reforms, whether in environment legislation or reform of tax and customs. But on human rights, democracy and governance, the pace remains much too slow.
I will not go into the detailed findings for each country today due to the limited time, but I stand ready to discuss them in bilateral meetings with you, if you wish so.
ENP PRIORITIES 2010-2011
Let me turn to what are the priorities for the coming months. The pace of progress also depends on the benefits that the partners can expect from the ENP. Therefore, I strongly believe that the EU should provide partners with tangible incentives within a reasonable timeframe, notably in the fields of mobility of people and of trade liberalisation. These two areas will be my main priorities for 2010 and 2011. Furthermore, I will
Mobility of people
Well-managed improvement in the area of mobility of people is mutually beneficial to the EU and to its partners because it facilitates business, tourism, people-to-people contacts and legal labour migration.
Together with the promise of trade liberalisation, it provides a strong political incentive for much-needed institutional and administrative reform in our neighbourhood.
I expect to make progress especially with the Eastern partners, based on the Eastern Partnership long term goal of visa liberalisation following a step-by-step approach provided that the necessary conditions in terms of security are met. It is my intention to develop the Eastern Partnership into a practical and useful vehicle of getting 6 of our partners closer to the European Union - as far as they are willing to go. For that purpose, I will focus both on substance (political association, economic integration, mobility) and on the instruments like the Comprehensive Institution Building for which half of the 350 million Euro, made available last year, will be dedicated.
I hope for clear progress as regards visa facilitation and readmission agreements with all Eastern partners, including Belarus, which will boost contacts between people. Based on the EU Visa Code, the Commission will also propose to Member States practical measures to improve visa delivery and consular coverage
I hope that we will have made substantial progress in the visa dialogue with Ukraine which will lead us to setting up a roadmap for visa liberalisation.
And I expect that we will soon start a visa dialogue with the same objective with the Republic of Moldova as well.
In the South of the neighbourhood, we also need to reflect on how we can put in place proper partnerships for migration management. Visa facilitation agreements with our most advanced partners should be part of these partnerships, as well as readmission agreements of course.
On trade liberalisation, we will pursue the goal of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) with our neighbours to expand the EU single market.
Negotiations are ongoing with Ukraine and we will also seek to launch negotiations on a DCFTA with the Republic of Moldova. DCFTAs with Armenia and Georgia will be part of the Association Agreements with these countries.
Furthermore, the EU continues to support Azerbaijan in its efforts to join WTO early so that it fulfils a key condition for us to be able to move towards possible negotiations as well.
But partners need to step up their efforts to prepare for such negotiations in order to be able to implement future commitments and sustain them.
In the Southern neighbourhood, we will be guided by the ‘Euro-Med Trade Roadmap beyond 2010’, which aims at deepening bilateral trade relations and ultimately also at negotiating deep and comprehensive free trade areas with our partners.
Upgraded contractual relations
In this context, it will be important to upgrade our overall contractual relations with our neighbours, which will symbolise our political commitment to strengthening relations and supporting reforms to bring our neighbours closer to us.
Besides the countries with which we will conclude new Association Agreements, the Council has also expressed its readiness, in principle, to upgrade the EU’s contractual relationship with Belarus provided that this country demonstrates sustained commitment to democratic reforms.
As for our Southern partners, discussions are underway on the upgrading of relations with countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan. As regards Israel, the Commission is prepared to resume work on an upgrade as soon as the overall political context allows. Furthermore, I hope that the Association Agreement with Syria will be signed by Syria soon and that negotiations with Libya on the new framework agreement will be either concluded or nearing completion. As for the occupied Palestinian Territory, our future work together will aim at supporting the implementation of the Palestinian National Plan, and thus the PM’s state-building plan.
With Morocco, we will give concrete shape to the ’statut avancé’ with this country through the implementation of a new-generation, specific Action Plan tailored to this ambitious relationship.
In the next three years (2011-13) over €5.7 billion will be allocated to reinforcing political cooperation and promote economic integration between the EU and its neighbouring countries. Funding will go to support political and economic reforms, regional and cross-border cooperation in the partner countries covered by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI). It will also support projects in areas like climate change, transport, energy and environment. EU neighbours will receive more than €2 billion in 2013, compared with €1.6 billion in 2010.
Over €2 billion in 2013 is a substantial amount, but if we want to reinforce our relations with the ENP partners we will need a higher overall level of funding for the neighbourhood countries in the next financial perspective.
If we want our neighbours’ economies to integrate effectively into the EU single market, we must support their economic development. We must also coordinate and mobilise funding from the international financial institutions and particularly from the EIB to support our policy goals in three main areas, namely (1) climate change, (2) social and economic infrastructure, and (3) local private sector development, including SMEs.
Regional and multilateral dimensions
In parallel to this commitment and to bilateral relations with our partners, we will continue to build up our regional and multilateral initiatives. We will continue to develop the institutional capacity of the Union for the Mediterranean, in particular its Secretariat that was established last March in Barcelona. We will help to give concrete shape to UfM flagship projects that will promote the economic development and help to protect the environment of the region, for instance on water management and fight against pollution in the Mediterranean.
Regarding the Eastern Partnership, we will hold the second Summit in Budapest in May 2011. We will also carry forward our flagship initiatives in the framework of the EaP, for example on integrated border management and support of SMEs.
I also intend to reflect on how best to support sub-regional co-operation in our neighbourhood, for instance in the Maghreb.
Let me make one final but very important remark on why we have chosen a five-year assessment for the ENP package. The main objective is that we want to use the findings as a basis for extensive consultations with Member States, with you here in the Parliament and with our partners in the neighbourhood to get your and their feedback
The results will be presented in the framework of next year’s package which should make our policy more coherent and which will without a doubt lead to a higher degree of ownership by our neighbours. It will also be an ideal exercise to make our case for adequate resources to be provided by the next Financial Perspective very strong.
As regards the area of Enlargement policy, let me take a moment to give you my views of where we stand now and share with you where I hope to make progress in the coming months.
Over the coming months, the Commission will focus its attention on the 2010 Enlargement package, which will be adopted in November. It will contain a forward looking Strategy paper and the Progress Reports.
Furthermore, work on the opinions on the membership applications from Montenegro and Albania continues. This constitutes a considerable challenge both for the countries concerned and the Commission services. The opinions will be fair and balanced, taking into account the countries' achievements and own merits. It's a tall order, but I believe it is possible.
Following the Commission's positive Opinion on Iceland's application I hope that a decision to open accession negotiations can be made by the European Council in June.
With Turkey we have now reached a stage where opening chapters has become more demanding. We are looking in particular at the four chapters food safety, public procurement, competition and social policy and employment. Our aim is to open the chapter food safety under the Spanish presidency. However, the timing is extremely tight, especially as Turkey still needs to adopt legislation to meet a specific benchmark. The Commission will continue to provide necessary support, but the ball is in Turkey's court.
Following the Intergovernmental Conference on 19 April, more than half the chapters are now provisionally closed with Croatia. Concluding negotiations this year is however challenging. The Commission is working hard to advance, but quality must prevail over speed. There can be no shortcuts and this is in particular relevant for Chapter 23. I expect to submit soon to the Council a draft EU position for opening negotiations on this chapter, but progress in cooperation with ICTY will be the key to convince Member States to open the chapter.
We have recommended also the opening of accession negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but the June European Council would only follow on this recommendation if the name issue is solved. I understand the sensitivities of this question on both sides and I am following the UN-led mediation process closely.
We stand ready to prepare an opinion on Serbia's membership application as soon as the Council mandates us to do so. I furthermore hope that the June Council can decide on starting the SAA ratification process. I understand Prosecutor Brammertz's June report to UNSC will be pivotal in this regard and further progress in ICTY cooperation remains crucial.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is the focus of much of my attention at the moment. I visited Sarajevo some weeks ago and had a good exchange with the Bosnian political leadership. The country needs to fulfil the requirements which will allow a reinforced EU presence. But the Constitution also needs to be brought into line with the European Convention for Human Rights. The political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina are aware that it is up to them to move the country closer to the EU.
It is in the interest of all of us to make sure that Kosovo does not fall behind the rest of the region. The message I took to Kosovo ten days ago was that Kosovo shares the European perspective of the Western Balkans. We at the Commission are developing ways in which we can help its socio-economic development, in line with what we proposed last autumn. My aim is to launch the visa dialogue, and possibly proposing the negotiation of a trade agreement if the necessary progress is made by Kosovo. We are all aware that ICJ will issue its opinion this year and this looms large over relations between Kosovo and Serbia. I have urged all parties to demonstrate their willingness to be constructive and pragmatic in the run-up and following the ICJ opinion.
I hope, in this respect, that the upcoming EU Presidency conference in Sarajevo on 2 June can be inclusive, with all parties around the table with a common goal of bringing the whole region closer together.
On a final note, it is crucial that the process of European integration, which sometimes can appear long, has a direct impact on the citizens of the region. The visa liberalisation process has been very important in this respect.
The updated assessments on the visa liberalisation dialogue with Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina were presented to the Council and the European Parliament on 26/27 April. The aim of the Commission is to present the proposal for visa liberalisation by the end of May. I count on your cooperation in ensure swift follow-up once this legislative proposal reaches the Parliament. Thanks
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Parliament for its crucial contribution to the development and implementation of the ENP, both through the provision of budgetary resources and through parliamentary cooperation with our partners to promote democratic reform, and for its unfailing support for the enlargement process.
I personally consider the various reports being presented, discussed and adopted by this Committee as most valuable source of inspiration for the practical policies being pursued by the Commission. You could count on my humble support in promoting the parliamentary dimension of our neighbourhood and enlargement policies in general and also in concrete terms as regards the early establishment of Euronest.