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Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy

Talk at St Antony's College Oxford University

Oxford University, United Kingdom

Oxford, 17 October 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Professors and Students,

It is a great pleasure to address you here today.

Like St. Antony's College, the European Union traces its origins back to the 1950s. The past sixty years have brought instability and challenges, but also great changes and opportunities. Indeed, St Antony's College has developed a world-wide reputation by studying these events – the Cold War, the break-up of the Soviet Union, the wars in the former Yugoslavia, but not least European integration, enlargement and neighbourhood policy.

Indeed, Oxford University has many connections to the European Union. The Chancellor of the University, Lord Chris Patten served as European Commissioner for External Relations from 1999 – 2004. During this time, his portfolio covered all of the countries currently part of our enlargement and neighbourhood policies with the exception of Turkey. Turkey of course was a part of the enlargement portfolio which included what are now our 12 newest member states.

In many respects, my work today builds on the foundations which Chris lay.

I have heard that Oxford students like writing essays.

To honour this tradition, I decided to structure my talk today around three essay-style questions:

1) Enlargement policy and neighbourhood policy: compare and contrast.

2) The European Union's enlargement policy: how does it promote credible transformation?

3) European Neighbourhood Policy: What lessons have we learned?

Let me take each of these questions in turn and share my views with you.

1. Enlargement policy and neighbourhood policy: compare and contrast.

When this Commission was formed, I sought to ensure that the competences for the EU's enlargement and neighbourhood polices were united under a single portfolio.

The reason for this is simple: the two policies share similar objectives.

Both policies seek to foster democracy, stability and prosperity in our neighbouring regions. Both policies are in the EU's strategic interest and help us to better achieve our own policy objectives in a number of areas that are key to economic recovery and sustainable growth. Both policies seek to further the interests and objectives of our partners. And let me add, both policies are our best reaction to increasing competition in our neighbourhood.

• Our Enlargement policy covers nine countries at various stages of the journey.

• Our Neighbourhood policy reaches out to sixteen countries, with whom we wish to have closer relations, but these countries do not have an accession perspective - for the time being.

The distinction is important: We can not blur the dividing line. Rather we must work to prepare those who would wish to cross it in the future.

This brings us to question two:

2. The European Union's enlargement policy: how does it promote credible transformation?

The membership perspective offered by our Enlargement policy provides a strong incentive. When this perspective is combined with the hard work and determination of a country that wants to move towards EU standards and values, they can experience profound political, economic and social transformation.

Croatia, who completed its accession this year, is an excellent example. The Croatia of today is a very different country to that which applied to join the European Union a decade ago.

However, to be effective, Enlargement Policy must be credible.

For Member States, credibility means applying rigorous conditionality towards the applicants, but also providing them with a tangible European perspective as they fulfil the relevant conditions.

For the candidate and potential candidate countries, credibility needs to be built through a track record of credible reform and implementation.

Allow me to take three examples of 'credibility in action':

Last year, Montenegro was granted Candidate Status. The Council decided to consider opening accession negotiations, once the Commission has assessed that Montenegro met the 7 key priorities identified in the Opinion. Montenegro has worked hard. We have seen real progress including in; judicial reform, revising the electoral law, media freedom, anti-discrimination and the fight against corruption and organised crime. We therefore proposed to open accession negotiations with Montenegro. Montenegro will need to maintain the momentum of reforms, and consolidate its progress.

This year's enlargement package contained our Opinion on Serbia's application for membership. On the basis of the progress achieved in reforms, co-operation with the International Court Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia, and regional reconciliation, we recommended granting Serbia Candidate Status on the understanding that Serbia re-engages in the dialogue with Kosovo and is moving swiftly to the implementation in good faith of agreements reached to date. Furthermore, we recommended opening accession negotiations as soon as Serbia achieves further progress in meeting one key priority, namely: further steps to normalise relations with Kosovo in line with the conditions of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

In Kosovo, lengthy electoral processes meant progress achieved with the reform agenda was limited. However, the new institutions are committed to Kosovo's European perspective and they have produced some initial reforms. In recognition of this, we will launch a visa dialogue with Kosovo towards the end of this year. We will also launch a structured dialogue with Kosovo to support its rule of law reforms. We encourage Kosovo to develop a comprehensive strategy for the North and it is our goal to create a positive European agenda for Kosovo.

All of the examples I have given have been built on progress in establishing the fundamental values which are at the heart of the European Union.

The 2011 Strategy paper continues to focus on these essential elements.

A) strengthening the rule of law, public administration reform and the fight against organised crime and corruption. These efforts must be built on and credible track records established.

To achieve this, we have proposed in our Strategy paper a new approach. On the basis of action plans, we will open the judiciary and fundamental rights and justice and home affairs chapters as early as possible. We will follow developments through regular reporting with, as appropriate, necessary corrective measures.

This new approach is based on the lessons we have learnt with Croatia. There was enough time before closing the chapter to see the reforms put in place and a track record established, Benchmarks were met but the system needs time to bed down. For this reason until the day of accession monitor Croatia and ensure it delivers on all its commitments.

B) ensuring freedom of expression in the media. Last May we organized a "Speak up" conference, which identified political, economic and criminal harassment of media organisations as key concerns. The conference built on our efforts to work closely with all partners, governments, international community, journalists and NGOs. We sent the conference conclusions to all the Prime Ministers. We expect to see concrete steps to meet our concerns: notably to review and revise legislation concerning the media and to better protect journalists who are threatened and successfully prosecute attackers. We follow this closely in the context of the accession negotiations.

C) enhancing regional cooperation and reconciliation in the Western Balkans.

Mr Chairman, our European Union was born out of the realisation that these two elements can form a virtuous circle. We have taken this lesson and made regional co-operation one of the cornerstones of the stabilisation and association process: from energy and the environment to refugees and war crimes.

Bilateral issues should be resolved at the first available opportunity and should not have an impact on the accession process.

D) achieving sustainable economic recovery and extending transport and energy networks are in the strategic interest of the Enlargement countries and of the European Union as a whole. In the year to come, we will work to deepen and broaden co-operation in these areas which are vital for our future economic prosperity.

The credibility of Enlargement policy enables countries to undertake the necessary reforms that aim to bring profound transformation:

- A transformation to a stable, pluralistic, democracy that upholds and reinforces the rule of law and freedom of speech for all the citizens.

- A transformation to a functioning market economy and the prospect of long term prosperity.

- A transformation to a modern society, a society which fully embraces the values that form the foundation of the European Union.

At this time of on-going economic uncertainty in Europe, it is important to reaffirm that Enlargement also benefits the EU.

- it fosters stability in the region,

- it creates a larger economic space and

- and it increases the human and cultural capital of our common European home.

We are the largest trading partner of the enlargement countries and the largest investor; our economic futures are bound together. It is important that this is understood not just in the region but inside the EU where the focus is on other matters

The transformation that is underway in the enlargement countries is built on the same foundation stones on which our Union is constructed. These provide the platform for reforms but also a message of hope for the people.

Let me now move to my third and final question:

3. European Neighbourhood Policy: What lessons have we learned?

In May this year, we published a review of European Neighbourhood Policy entitled a "New Response to a Changing Neighbourhood." This Review incorporates a number of lessons that we have learned.

First and foremost, the Arab spring showed that there can be real stability, security and prosperity only if there is real democracy. It also underlined the universality of call for living in dignity, with transparent and accountable government and more inclusive economic and social development.

While the people in Syria continue to demonstrate and risk their very lives as we speak, the will of the people is there to bring about such change. This calls upon the EU to rethink our approach to the region and better align our values and interests, something that we have not done sufficiently in the past.

The first priority is to ensure that our policy will support the key building blocks of deep and sustainable democracy.

1) Respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms;

2) Genuinely free and fair elections;

3) Freedoms of assembly and of expression, including a free press and media;

4) The rule of law administered by an independent judiciary and right to a fair trial;

5) Fight against corruption and

6) Democratic control over security and armed forces.

These are reinforced by the more for more principle which is at the core of the neighbourhood policy. Second If a partner country wants greater support from the EU, it must commit to significant political reforms. For our part the European Union must deliver on this support.

We will deliver through one of the “3Ms”: money, mobility and markets.

A) money. We are adapting our financial instruments to make them more flexible and more focussed, and we will allocate, in 2011-2013, up to EUR 1.2 billion in additional grant money to support the new approach. With the extra resources, we have already set up the SPRING programme (Support for partnership, reforms and inclusive growth) for supporting reforms in the Southern Mediterranean regions and endowed it with 350 million euro for 2011-2012.

We have already drawn from SPRING to double our assistance to Tunisia this year from 80 million planned before the revolution to 160 million euro. We have also set up the neighbourhood civil society facility (22 million euro for this year) and increased the Erasmus Mundus programme by 20 million which will allow an additional 1150 scholarships to be granted for our partners both in the East and in the South.

B) mobility of people. We want to develop mobility partnerships; these go beyond visa facilitation and readmission agreements. We have such partnerships with Moldova and with Georgia and we are working with Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Armenia. Beyond this we are looking towards full visa liberalisation action plans and are being implemented with Ukraine and Moldova.

C) market access. This is vital for the future economic prosperity of the countries and by creating jobs at home can reduce migratory pressure. We want to see deep and comprehensive free trade areas with Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia in the South. In the East, technical negotiations of an association agreement with Ukraine including a deep and comprehensive free trade area are nearing completion. We also aim to launch negotiations on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Moldova and Georgia, once they have met the necessary requirements.

Using the 3Ms, we will allow each partner to develop its links with the EU as far as its own aspirations, needs and practices allow.

Dear colleagues,

We will listen to our partners and we will adapt our offer where possible to their particular situation. We will work not only with governments, but also with civil society and peoples. It is indeed a fundamental new element of our approach to work more closely with civil society organisations, not only human rights NGOs, but also representatives of trade unions, political parties, the private sector, press and media, and think tanks. This is crucial for strengthening the voices of accountability inside our partner countries but also for the relevance of our policy. And this is Our third 'lesson learned': To engage directly with all people within our partners' societies.

Tunisia is a good example of this. We have just had the first meeting of the EU-Tunisia Task Force. We discussed each of the M's: including concrete financial support, a mobility partnership and resumption of negotiations on the liberalisation of agricultural trade and starting negotiations on the deep and comprehensive free trade area. These discussions were not just with the government but also with representatives of civil society. We have also reaffirmed our commitment to embark into negotiations over the establishment of a privileged partnership with Tunisia, which we would conclude with a democratically elected government.

In the East, we have reconfirmed our desire to support the reform process and to promote the shared commitment to the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. Our Eastern partners are at different stages along this path, and our role is to give practical support to that process of their political association and economic integration with the EU.

To take account of the specifics of the countries our policy allows for differentiation. One size does not fit all. We must help those who wish to push on with deeper reforms and a closer relationship with the EU. This is not unique to the east. Differentiation will apply also to the south.

It is important to recognise civil society's role in the east as well. The second summit of the Eastern Partnership highlighted that our partnership extends beyond governments, to links between peoples. To underline this dimension, Civil society and business forums have been set up within the Partnership. Furthermore, the EU has acknowledged the European choice of our Eastern partners. But we also underline that this choice goes hand in hand with our expectations for their commitment to progressing towards deep and sustainable democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To conclude, there are perhaps two further lessons which can be drawn. The first of these concerns endgames. We know where we would like countries to end up. But our policies must allow the space for them to find their own path to this point.

Finally, ensure that your policy framework is dynamic not static, in a rapidly changing world it is hard to predict what will come.

I have sought to give you a brief overview of the European Union's enlargement and neighbourhood polices. This has been a momentous year for both policies and there are many challenges and expectations for the future. I look forward to our discussion.

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