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Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

The EU: a Force for Peace, Stability and Prosperity in Wider Europe

Columbia University

New York, 30 November 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to address you today in New York’s prestigious Columbia University.

It is a particular privilege to discuss the promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in Europe in the University that Dwight D Eisenhower served as President for a brief period.

Initially as a soldier, and later as a statesman, Eisenhower helped to lay the foundations on which our modern reunited Europe is built.

The relationship - that Eisenhower did so much to foster between the United States and Europe - has gone from strength to strength over the past 60 years.

At the recent Lisbon Summit between the United States and the European Union, President Obama reaffirmed that EU-US relations are a cornerstone of our mutual security and prosperity. Events in the immediate neighbourhood of the European Union are relevant not only to Europe, but also to the US. For instance, the Middle East Peace Process is fundamental to the security of both the EU and the US.

I address you today as the European Commissioner responsible for the enlargement of the European Union and for its neighbourhood policy.

During the course of this lecture I aim to:

  • present the philosophy which underlines both policies, their similarities and their differences

  • I will examine each policy area in more detail and evaluate their successes and the challenges for the future

  • I will also seek to explain how the policies fit within the broader shared objectives of the European Union and the United States to promote democracy and stability.

1. Enlargement Policy and Neighbourhood Policy

Similar objectives but different tools

For the European Union, enlargement policy and neighbourhood policy are quite distinct:

Enlargement policy concerns the relations of the European Union with countries that have the prospect of one day becoming members of the European Union themselves;

Neighbourhood policy concerns neighbouring countries, with whom we wish to have closer relations, but these countries do not have an accession perspective for the time being.

Overall Goals and Values

However, both policies share the same overarching goal of extending the area of peace, stability and prosperity in Europe - beyond the borders of the European Union. By building cooperation between former rivals, while upholding the highest standards of human rights, the European Union radiates a magnetic soft power that can make a significant contribution to the peace and stability of the world.

These policies also help us to achieve better our own policy objectives in a number of areas, including energy, transport, internal market, environmental protection, and efforts to limit climate change. Indeed, many of these areas are the key to economic recovery and sustainable growth. They enable the European Union to promote the objectives of the 2020 reform agenda, and make the European Union a safer place.

Against the background of the global economic recession, intensifying economic dialogue and closer economic integration with the enlargement and neighbourhood countries will enable us to work together towards putting the crisis behind us, improving competitiveness and creating jobs.

Accordingly, these two policies enable the EU to meet the challenges of a shifting, multi-polar world, in which we need to continue projecting our values and interests - beyond our borders.

The Lisbon Treaty

With the Lisbon Treaty in force, the EU is now equipped to deal with foreign policy challenges in an efficient, coherent and innovative manner. The Lisbon Treaty removed the institutional bottlenecks in our decision-making, leading to increased efficiency. With the creation of a new position of High-Representative/Vice President - currently held by Cathy Ashton - the foreign policy of the European Union acquires increased coherence. As Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood policy, I combine forces with Catherine Ashton to address the key issues of the region. This process is innovative as we can now make full use of the 'Community toolbox' together with the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and establish broader and more strategic political conditionalities.

In this context, the European Union now welcomes the responsibility of taking the leading role in its neighbourhood. However, let me leave you in no doubt - we still wish to work closely with the US and to see a strong US engagement in the region.

Co-operation with the US

So far, the best example of US co-operation with the implementation of the EU's post-Lisbon foreign policy concerns the management of the UN General Assembly Resolution on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion on Kosovo, issued in September 2010. In the tense period before this progressive resolution was passed, High-Representative/Vice-President Cathy Ashton employed a combination of policy tools, most clearly the conditionality associated with the perspective of EU membership, to encourage Serbia and Kosovo to support a reconciliatory resolution and to agree to EU-mediated talks.

In such initiatives, we owe a great deal to the support of the US. I hope that we can look forward to similar co-operation in the future – for two reasons.

First, we share same values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights;

Second, we can best achieve our objectives by working in close cooperation with each other.

In this regard, let me emphasize that the role of the US over the years has been vital. During World War II, the US helped Europe to liberate itself from a dark period of its history and US investment and security initiatives helped to build the foundations of stability in Europe.

We will always be grateful for this.

The European Union that exists today owes much to US policy in the years after the Second World War: a policy which combined financial assistance, a security presence in Western Europe and political support during the Cold War.

These elements helped to create an environment in which the ideas of Monet, Schuman, Adenauer and the other founding fathers of our Union, could flourish and develop.

Almost twenty years after the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism, the European Union now unites countries that once found themselves on different sides of the iron curtain. The peoples of the twenty-seven EU member states now enjoy a stable, democratic and prosperous Europe.

Ladies and gentlemen, Enlargement and ENP matter because they reinforce and extend this peace and stability in Europe. This is in the interest of both the European Union and the US. I hope the US will continue to play a strong diplomatic, security and economic role in the region.

With the implementation of the Lisbon treaty, the European Union should also be a stronger partner to work alongside the US and face our common challenges in these areas.

2. Enlargement

I would now like to consider the European Union's enlargement policy in more detail.

This policy shows how we can turn serious challenges on our doorstep into opportunities: opportunities for a more secure and prosperous Europe and a stable world.

Consider the Western Balkans. Fifteen years ago, the region appeared in everyone's mind as a place of destruction and despair. Now, it is consolidating peace and stability through a clear European Union membership perspective. This perspective prompts regional cooperation and diplomatic resolution of bilateral issues.

Consider Turkey, a growing regional power, taking steps to bring its secular democracy closer to European Union standards.

Or consider Iceland, a country hard hit by the financial crisis which opted for the European Union's model of stability and solidarity and is now negotiating membership.

All of these countries are moving closer to the European Union values-based model. Why? Because, the European Union remains attractive.

The history of enlargement has been a success. We have consolidated democracy in countries that experienced authoritarian dictatorships, reinforced the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and we have promoted market economies.

Realising this potential is far from automatic. For the aspiring countries, the tough preparations for membership require a process of profound reform and reorientation.

That countries undertake these efforts is in large measure due to the unique nature of the enlargement process. Yes, enlargement is foreign policy but it goes far beyond that.

The prospect of EU membership is the best mechanism to implement far-reaching political, economic and social reform. Ultimately, membership of the European Union is the best guarantee of achieving our shared goals of ensuring democracy stability and prosperity in Europe.

But this will only happen when the political, economic, legal and administrative enlargement criteria are fully met.

This provides an answer to another question that I am frequently posed: why is the accession process so complex and time consuming?

Ladies and gentlemen,

To have Croatia or Turkey join the European Union is not like the United States joining Mexico and Canada in NAFTA:

  • It is more than an international agreement

  • It is more than a trade or economic partnership

  • It is about finding a place in our family, a place in our common home of shared values.

Achieving this involves accepting the shared values of the European Union. It involves extensive political and economic reform. It also requires the extensive amendment of the legal order, in some cases up to 60% of legislation. This legal order is enforced both through national courts and at the level of the Union by the European Court of Justice.

The nature of the process brings huge potential benefits to both sides. For these benefits to materialise, the work of the European Union and of the candidate and potential candidate countries must be credible. For Enlargement, credibility is a two-way street.

For Member States, the credibility of the enlargement process requires rigorous conditionality towards the applicants. It means that a candidate country is only recommended for membership of the European Union once it is 100% prepared to join.

For the candidate and potential candidate countries, credibility is about their tangible European perspective. We must provide them with a framework in which they can achieve real change, real reform and real results.

For the countries concerned, credibility is gained not through simply ticking boxes about legislative approximation. It is built through a track record of credible reform and implementation. Only this can guarantee that the reforms undertaken will bring the expected changes and benefits to society.

We greatly appreciate the support that the US has provided to us in support of this policy.

We have seen some notable progress across the enlargement countries:

From visa liberalisation with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia to constitutional reform in Turkey;

From implementing the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) across the western Balkans to the proposal of granting candidate status to Montenegro and opening accession negotiations with Iceland, this progress provides the foundations for further advances in the year ahead.

Some issues apply almost across the board and are clearly in the interest of both the EU and the US.

These include judicial reform and the reform of public administration; the fight against organised crime and corruption.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the media remains a concern in most enlargement countries.

Bilateral issues need to be solved by the parties concerned, in a good neighbourly spirit and taking overall European Union interests into account. These issues should not hold up the accession process. The time has come for the region to overcome the legacy of the conflicts of the past, building on recent positive momentum regarding reconciliation.

Regional cooperation is an essential element of the Stabilisation and Association process. It should not be undermined by divergences over Kosovo.

The recent UN General Assembly Resolution on Kosovo was a marked success for the European Union, and showed that the process of European Union enlargement is a powerful driver for peace, stability and reconciliation in the region.

Following the UN General Assembly Resolution, we will facilitate a dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina to promote cooperation, to achieve progress on the path to the European Union and to improve the lives of people. This is an important opportunity, not just for bilateral relations but for the region and regional co-operation as a whole.

Co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is an essential element of the accession process for the states concerned. Progress in domestic war crimes cases is also important and will help remove a barrier to reconciliation.

For Turkey further results are needed regarding fundamental rights, the 'democratic opening' and the involvement of all stakeholders in the reform process. In particular, freedom of expression needs to be ensured in practice.

As regards the Cyprus issue, the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and of the Turkish Cypriot communities are continuing negotiations on a comprehensive settlement under the auspices of the United Nations. I call on both leaders to strengthen their efforts to bring the settlement talks to a successful conclusion as soon as possible. We reiterate our call on Turkey to contribute in concrete terms to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue.

Concerning Serbia, the two remaining ICTY fugitives are still at large. Serbia needs to demonstrate a constructive attitude towards Kosovo’s participation in regional trade and cooperation. Cooperation needs to be strengthened with the EULEX rule of law mission with respect to the north of Kosovo.

Following the October general elections, Bosnia and Herzegovina urgently needs to speed up reforms. In particular Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to align its Constitution with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and to improve the efficiency and functioning of its institutions.

Regarding its international obligations, it remains essential for Bosnia and Herzegovina to make progress towards meeting the objectives and conditions which have been set for the closure of the Office of the High Representative (OHR).

Ladies and Gentlemen, so far I outlined the depth of reforms and changes that are being undertaken by the candidate and potential candidate countries, which aim to be members of the European Union.

Let us now turn to European Neighbourhood Policy, which aims to bring Europe’s neighbours closer to the European Union.

3. European Neighbourhood Policy

European Neighbourhood Policy was developed in the run-up to the 2004 “big bang” enlargement, which reunited Europe following the division imposed by the ‘iron curtain’. The policy aims to avoid the creation of new dividing lines in Europe – this time, between countries that are inside or outside the EU. European Neighbourhood Policy covers sixteen countries to the South and to the East of the EU.

These sixteen diverse countries are spread across three continents, each with their own geography, economy, history and culture. You may wonder: How can the European Union deal with these countries in a single policy?

My answer is twofold:

First, our neighbours share many common challenges – including poverty and a weak democratic culture - so the EU can provide a forum to overcome these issues.

Second, ENP can be applied in all neighbouring countries as the policy is based on a single set of core values and goals.

Let me first look at these values:

The values of good governance and rule of law, together with democracy and respect for human rights, lie at the heart of ENP. These values underpin all EU norms and standards and they also apply to our relations with all of our partners. The European Union encourages reform in our neighbourhood and seeks to promote convergence towards our shared values.

We have different approaches to achieve this goal:

  • We agree on reform agendas - Action Plans - with our partners.

  • We provide technical assistance and financial support.

  • Through a dense network of regular contacts, we promote ‘socialisation’ with our partners.

  • We offer the prospect of economic integration into the EU single market.

  • We are also exploring ways to make it easier for people to move between the EU and our partners.

In short, European Neighbourhood Policy involves exercising ‘soft power’, which as you know is the ‘speciality’ of the European Union!

Indeed, the cornerstone of ENP involves the European Union and its neighbours working together to address common challenges. These currently include: the economic crisis, environmental protection, climate change and managing migration.

For instance, the European Union has provided loans to support the financial stability of its Eastern neighbours. We also work to finance new infrastructure projects, to open markets and to improve the business environment of our neighbours to the East and to the South.

These activities promote economic stability and create opportunities for trade and investment. This benefits not only the ENP partner countries, but also the European Union and the world as a whole.

In order to mitigate the consequences of climate change in our neighbourhood, we encourage our neighbours to adapt their environmental standards to reduce emissions, to limit air and water pollution beyond the borders of the European Union.

Concerning migration, we have concluded “mobility partnerships” with some of our neighbours. This aims to manage jointly legal migration, including circular migration, to counter irregular migration and to use migration as a tool to promote economic development.

Energy security is another important challenge facing the European Union and many of its neighbours. This subject was discussed by the EU-US Energy Council at its meeting on 19 November, which was attended by Secretary of State Clinton, High Representative/Vice-President Ashton, and European Energy Commissioner Oettinger. The Energy Council raised the need for reform of the Ukraine's gas transit system and reiterated its support for Europe’s Southern Energy Corridor. They also discussed the role of specific countries like Iraq (for energy supply) and Turkey (for energy transit).

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The goals and values of the European Neighbourhood Policy are applied to all partner countries. However, we adopt an increasingly differentiated approach to bilateral relations with each partner country, as required by the particular situation, needs and ambitions of each country.

The depth of our engagement depends on each partner’s commitment to reform and to our core values. We signal to each partner that we offer ‘more for more’. The more they engage with us, the more cooperation we offer.

We apply this differentiated, tailor-made approach both between and within the regions of the neighbourhood.

In the East of its neighbourhood, the European Union has an “Eastern Partnership” with six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The Eastern Partnership focuses on enhancing the stability and prosperity of our Eastern partners, through their approximation to EU norms and standards based on common values. Let me explain in a bit more detail.

Bilaterally, the European Union has offered to negotiate Association Agreements with its Eastern partners. These entail deep economic and regulatory integration, enhanced cooperation on energy security, support for economic and social development, as well the prospect of visa liberalisation in the long term.

Progress in these areas depends on each country’s commitment to our core values and to reform.

With the Ukraine, negotiations on an Association Agreement have already made considerable progress. We launched negotiations with the Republic of Moldova in January 2010. Negotiations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia followed in July 2010.

On visas, we have agreed an Action Plan on visa liberalisation with the Ukraine and are advancing in our dialogue with Moldova. We recently concluded visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Georgia. Similar agreements with other partners will follow.

With Belarus, our engagement will depend chiefly on reforms in 5 key areas for democratisation:

  • no political prisoners

  • reform of the electoral code

  • freedom of the press and NGO

  • abolition of death penalty

Of course, we will be watching very closely the conduct of the upcoming elections.

Let me be clear - isolating a country in the heart of Europe has not worked so far and will not work in the future. We therefore seek ways of engaging critically with Belarus, by focusing on the reforms we consider indispensable.

While bilateral relations remain the focus of the Eastern Partnership, our partners face similar challenges as they are coming closer to the EU. For this reason, we have established a framework to bring our partner countries together with their EU counterparts to share best practice and develop practical multilateral cooperation.

We have launched flagship initiatives in areas such as border management, disaster response and the development of small and medium sized enterprises.

In all these areas, it is important to engage with the societies of our partner countries. We have therefore encouraged the creation of an Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, to bring together NGOs and social partners from the EU and from all six Eastern partners.

The EU wants the Eastern Partnership to be an open and transparent initiative. Last September, we launched an information and coordination group for the Eastern Partnership. Participation in this informal group includes other regional players, such as Russia and Turkey, and the US.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us now turn our attention towards the EU’s neighbours to the South.

Once again, we follow a tailor-made approach with each of our partners. We have agreed on an “advanced status” for Morocco, a country that has made a clear choice to modernise and to strengthen relations with the EU. With Jordan, we recently agreed a new Action Plan. We are discussing arrangements to enhance our relations with other neighbours, such as Egypt and Tunisia.

The Union for the Mediterranean, launched in 2008, was the occasion to re-energise the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. We are now developing flagship projects in areas such as solar energy and fighting pollution in the Mediterranean. We have great hopes that the recently created Secretariat in Barcelona will facilitate further large-scale economic projects and promote employment, innovation and growth in the region. All this will encourage greater private investment.

These initiatives are ongoing, despite the many difficulties created by the political blockages in the Middle East Peace Process. The US is playing a key role here, sponsoring talks between the parties towards a two-state solution, where Israel and a Palestinian state co-exist peacefully — an objective which we have shared for a long time.

Assessing ENP

The EU regularly monitors the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy.

So what is our assessment of the ENP so far?

So far, the ENP has met with varied success:

It has resulted in the approximation of legislation towards EU standards in many fields.

It has facilitated increased trade flows between the EU and its partners.

However, it has not brought about the degree of progress we had hoped for in our neighbourhood – especially concerning democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.

We cannot take it for granted that we will succeed in anchoring our neighbours to the EU. Other players seek to assert their influence, which is not always based on the same values or the same societal model that we seek to promote.

Addressing these challenges in our own neighbourhood will be a litmus test of the EU as a nascent foreign policy actor.

In our neighbourhood, there are many unsolved regional conflicts: not only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Western Sahara. Our partners call for greater EU support in the resolution of territorial disputes.

The EU and US share the same goals of peace, stability and prosperity in the region, based on our common values. Thanks to the new tools provided by the Lisbon Treaty, the EU can now play a greater role in the resolution of the regional conflicts in its neighbourhood, alongside the US.

Five years after the implementation of European Neighborhood Policy, High Representative/Vice-President Ashton and I have undertaken broad-ranging consultations to review this policy, including EU Member States and partner country governments and civil society. We want to discuss the future of ENP policy, to define a vision and set out the way ahead for the medium term.

The outcome of the consultations so far is encouraging. Both EU Member States and partner countries want stronger relations based on high level political co-operation and deeper economic integration. Civil society organizations are also very supportive of the ENP as a tool to advance shared values and good governance.

The consultations so far indicate that we need to increase move clearly towards the “more for more” approach. We develop a framework in which our expectations of partners are spelled out more clearly, as are the “rewards” that our partners will obtain if those expectations are met. The results of the consultations will form the basis for discussions within the EU in the first half of 2011 on the future of the European Neighborhood Policy.

4. Conclusions/way forward

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have aimed to place the European Union's enlargement and neighbourhood policies within the context of securing the peace, stability and prosperity of our neighbourhood. This is of strategic interest not only for the European Union, but also for the United States.

These policies have been successful in the past. I am certain that the future is even brighter. The Lisbon Treaty and the European External Action Service is a major development, for a number of reasons.

  • The European Union will be able to better coordinate different instruments and actors.

  • These developments allow us to follow a more holistic approach to the promotion of European Union values and interests, including its model of democracy and an open internal market.

  • We can become more engaged in the resolution of regional conflicts in our neighbourhood.

  • The External Action Service and the Lisbon Treaty will help the EU to re-position itself in a shifting multi-polar world, with new and assertive regional and global players.

  • Finally, they will make the European Union a more effective partner of the United States when dealing with our shared interests.

We will continue to expand the area of peace, stability and prosperity within and beyond the borders of the European Union.

The enlargement of the European Union will continue, based on the renewed consensus, but only when candidates are 100% ready to join the Union.

We will deepen relations with each neighbour in a differentiated way according to the needs and ambitions of each partner.

These developments are not only in the interest of the European Union and of its neighbours, but also in the interest of the wider world, particularly the United States. In Europe and beyond, I am convinced that the European Union and the United States will continue to work hand in hand together to pursue our common goals and to promote our common values.

Thank you

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