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European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Opening Remarks: Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy
European Parliament Plenary Session
Strasbourg, 13 December 2011
President, Honourable Members,
I am very grateful to Mr David and to Mr Siwiec for their excellent report on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
Since I came in front of the Committee for External Relations (AFET) last May to present the new approach to the European Neighbourhood Policy, both Cathy Ashton and I have been determined to deliver on the commitments that we have taken.
While I am fully aware that much remains to be done, let me give you a few highlights of what has been achieved so far.
In line with the principles of mutual accountability and a shared commitment to universal values of human rights, democracy and rule of law, we have developed a new approach in which our interests and values converge more. This explains why for example we have doubled our financial support to Tunisia this year, a country that has organised truly democratic elections and has made tangible progress in the areas of freedoms of expression and association.
At the same time, we have taken ever tighter sanctions against the regimes of Kaddafi in Libya, Lukashenko in Belarus, and Bachar El Assad in Syria, while simultaneously working to intensify our cooperation with civil society. With these two latter countries, it is no longer business as usual.
We have been working hard to deliver on extra EU incentives that, to quote your report, 'should be given to the neighbourhood countries to engage in the common goal of building deep democracy”.
On Money, we have overhauled our financial assistance to make our financial incentives more effective. We have set up a new “SPRING” programme of 350 million Euro for the southern partners and will create a similar one for our Eastern partners. The funding of the European Investment Bank was increased by 1 billion Euro and EBRD eligibility was extended to the Southern neighbourhood. The Commission has already provided 20 million to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to ensure that it can swiftly start its operations in support of the private sector.
Looking ahead, it will be important to secure adequate funding for our neighbourhood policy under the next financial framework. Last week, the Commission has proposed a 23% increase. I hope that the EP will support this ambitious approach.
As for access to markets, the European Commission has asked the Council for a mandate to negotiate agreements on deep and comprehensive free trade areas with Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia. In the East, we have made progress on the DCFTA with Ukraine and have also decided to launch negotiations on DCFTAs with Georgia and Moldova.
As for Mobility: we have already launched comprehensive dialogues on migration, mobility and security with Tunisia and Morocco, which aim at preparing mobility partnerships, including agreements on repatriation of irregular migrants but also on facilitation of visas for legitimate travel. After those already concluded with Georgia and Moldova, a new mobility partnership was concluded with Armenia on 27 October.
Of course the extra incentives will be given as a matter of priority only to those countries that are firmly committed to the process of transformation and political reforms. This is to fully respect the principle of 'more for more' which is at the heart of the new ENP approach.
The renewed ENP is not only a partnership with governments. It is also a partnership with societies. The new Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility has already been launched in November with a 22 million euro budget for this year. Unlike other existing instruments, this Facility aims at empowering civil society to participate more actively in the reforms. We are advancing in the preparation of the European Endowment for Democracy. In addition, we have stepped up our engagement with civil society organisations in Belarus and Syria, as they can best support the necessary reforms and political change in those countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The path of reform will be bumpy and difficult. This is why we need to be persistent in our support to our partners. Implementation of the new ENP approach needs to remain at the top of our political agenda.
This is not only because historic events are taking place at our doorstep. It is because our destinies are linked and our security depends so much on what happens in these countries. I count on your continued support in this endeavour.