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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Address to the European Parliament on the European Neighbourhood Policy Review
European Parliament Plenary Session
Strasbourg, 6 April 2011
President, Honourable Members,
I am delighted to have this opportunity for an exchange of views with you on the European Neighbourhood Policy. In the context of the current events in the southern Mediterranean, redeveloping this policy could not be more important.
In fact over the past nine months the Commission has undertaken a review of the Policy, and I want to take this chance also to thank you for your input to the consultation – which took responses from partner countries, EU Member States, academics and civil society groups.
I have read both the Mário David report on the South and the Marek Siwiec report on the East, and find them each significant and useful. I am pleased that our thoughts are along the same lines.
You will have noticed that the results of our previous discussions on Neighbourhood Policy are already reflected in the Communication on a Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity of 8 March. Now we are preparing for the wider Communication on the results of the Review, which is due to be published in May.
A key outcome of the Review is a new emphasis on differentiation of the Neighbourhood Policy according to the needs and wishes of each partner country. While the Policy will continue to offer engagement to all partners, every neighbour is different and has different aspirations.
Some partner countries want to progress as far as they can towards the European Union – indeed as far as accession. But others prefer to make the most of other benefits of the Neighbourhood Policy. So it will deliver "more for more" in a specific and differentiated way – alongside stronger political steering of our relationships with our partners.
Nevertheless, as both Mr. David and Mr. Siwiec recommend in their reports, our shared values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights will be at the heart of the revised Neighbourhood Policy for all partner countries.
They should find their expression in stronger joint commitments to elements indispensable to democratisation: I am thinking in particular of free and fair elections, freedom of expression and association, judicial independence, the fight against corruption, and security sector reform.
Also as highlighted in both reports, the revised Neighbourhood Policy will recognise and act on the importance of civil society. Non-governmental organisations have the expertise and experience to deliver democratic and market-oriented reforms from the bottom up, based on shared values.
A thriving civil society gets citizens involved and helps to hold governments to account. So the European Union will complement its relations with governments with much closer engagement with civil society. This is also important at a regional and sub-regional level – where, for example, the Eastern Partnership's Civil Society Forum has been making good progress.
The forthcoming Communication will offer more detail on the approach towards the two sub-regions of our Neighbourhood. It will spell out how we see the Eastern Partnership developing further in the wake of the Summit under the Polish Presidency.
In the South, the Union for the Mediterranean has the potential to make a real difference – but frankly it has not yet done so and must be revitalised. Its promise lies in developing concrete economic projects with a focus on employment, innovation and growth. The UfM’s Secretariat is best placed to act as a catalyst and bring together states, International Financial Institutions and private companies to work on such economic projects.
I would like to mention briefly three other elements brought to light by the Review, which will be key to the revised Neighbourhood Policy.
First, the role of trade and economic integration to help advance stability and prosperity in partner countries. The most significant vehicle to achieve this is the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area.
A successful DCFTA has transformative power – regulatory reforms made by a partner country are anchored through trade.
Next, the need for improved mobility between partner countries and the European Union – since there is no better way to promote European values than through sharing experiences person to person. The Neighbourhood Policy will seek improvements to mobility, without losing sight of security.
Finally, the desire expressed in the consultation by many partner countries for greater political engagement with the European Union. Closer and more substantial political dialogue across all areas of our relationships will help us resolve difficult issues in a spirit of mutual confidence.
Thank you for your time. I look forward very much to the coming debate and will take on board your views.