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Stefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood

Presentation of the European Neighbourhood Policy package

European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee

Strasbourg, 21 May 2012

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members,

It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you again to talk about the new European Neighbourhood Policy package. And I am very happy that my good friend the Council of Europe Secretary General, Mr Jagland, is here with us today.

Almost exactly one year ago, I presented the new approach of the European Neighbourhood Policy to you. Now, I would like to tell you about the delivery of this policy. I would also like to highlight our crucial cooperation with the Council of Europe in this domain.

The main goals of the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy are

  • to provide greater support to partners engaged in building deep and sustainable democracies;

  • to support more effectively inclusive economic development;

  • to strengthen the two regional dimensions of the European Neighbourhood Policy, namely the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean.

The renewed ENP is based on the "more for more" approach: more support from the European Union in return for more progress towards democratic reform. It is also based:

  • on mutual accountability between the European Union and its partners;

  • on partnerships not only with governments but also with civil society;

  • on the recognition of the role of women in societal and political transitions; and

  • on increased differentiation by country, which makes our policies more effective and better suited to partners' needs.

One year on, what have we done to implement this policy?

First, let us take sustainable democracy.

To support democratic transition, we have helped a number of Southern neighbours conduct democratic elections with the participation of a diversity of political parties.

  • The European Union has deployed fully-fledged Election Observation Missions in Tunisia and Algeria, and sent election experts to Morocco.

  • It has also provided technical assistance to Egypt.

  • Libya has invited the European Union to observe the forthcoming elections for a constitutional assembly and Cathy Ashton has recently decided to deploy an election assessment team (EAT) which will be present in all main Libyan cities.

And we have also stepped up co-operation with the Council of Europe. The European Union supported the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly offering “Partner for Democracy Status” to Parliaments of Southern Mediterranean countries, notably Morocco and the Palestinian Authority.

We also backed Secretary General Jagland's successful proposal for a new Council of Europe strategy towards its neighbours.

Co-operation with the Council of Europe is strategic for us. Our work is mutually re-enforcing. I am very grateful to the Council of Europe for the active role that it is playing in the countries of the Eastern Neighbourhood which is essential for establishing sustainable democracies.

I also welcome the positive response of the Council of Europe to the European Union requests to expand our cooperation in the South Mediterranean. The objectives, priorities and actions identified as part of its new neighbourhood policy fully match the priorities and actions we have been discussing together during the past year.

The progress we have jointly made is remarkable, in particular in the Southern Mediterranean: Initial ideas have been developed into a fully fledged cooperation framework, including concrete projects on the ground.

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members,

Second, to support democratic change, the European Union has thoroughly applied the principle of "more for more". Despite the current economic crisis in Europe, funding for our neighbourhood has increased.

  • One billion euro of additional grant funding is being made available to partners.

  • We increased the lending ceilings to partner countries from the European Investment Bank by EUR 1.15 billion.

  • And we successfully operated to extend the mandate of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to the Southern partners. In order to fast track the start of the EBRD activities in the South Mediterranean region, the Commission has granted EUR 20 million for supporting private sector development operations.

Third, we have also made progress in important policy areas with those partners that are making most progress in political and economic reforms. In the area of trade, in the context of the ongoing negotiations on Association Agreements with Eastern partners, we launched negotiations for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, and we are about to do so with Armenia. The Council also adopted negotiating directives for Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

Fourth, in the field of mobility the European Union has recently concluded a mobility partnership with Armenia and plans to conclude mobility partnerships with Morocco and Tunisia. We have also made progress on more technical cooperation in a number of sectors, including agriculture and rural development, and on the participation of neighbours in European Union programmes and agencies, with Morocco as the latest partner to enjoy this benefit.

By contrast, we have reduced our cooperation with partners that are not making progress towards democratic reform. We have imposed sanctions not only on Syria but also on Belarus. As for Ukraine, respect for common values and the rule of law will be of crucial importance for the speed of political association and economic integration with the European Union.

Fifth, reduced cooperation with undemocratic governments should not result in reduced support and cooperation with civil society – quite the opposite. That is why we have launched a special Civil Society Facility for our neighbourhood with an initial budget of EUR 26 million for 2011 and similar amounts planned for the following years.

Last December, the Council agreed on the main principles for the establishment of the European Endowment for Democracy, with an initial focus on the European Union Neighbourhood. We have also greatly increased funding for education and scholarships. Our programmes and initiatives in support of civil society pay particular attention to women's participation in politics and society.

Finally, in line with the objective of strengthening the regional dimensions of the European Neighbourhood Policy, the package includes a Roadmap to the autumn 2013 Eastern Partnership Summit and an additional Roadmap for the Southern partners.

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members,

A key feature of the new approach has been the focus on mutual accountability. This means that we in the European Union are accountable to our partners for the support we promise, and our partners are accountable to us for their own progress towards political and economic reform.

The progress reports on each partner concern the partners' part of the bargain. The reports seek to measure progress made by each partner in the implementation of the commitments jointly taken in the Action Plan. To do this, we have closely consulted and drawn on the expertise of many stakeholders, civil society organisations, official reports and international organisations, including the Council of Europe.

For the first time, the reports also address recommendations to each partner. The recommendations encourage partners in particular to uphold freedoms of expression, association and assembly and to promote women’s rights and gender equality.

They also call for efficient and independent judiciary systems, sustained efforts to tackle corruption and security sector reforms. The recommendations are not a diktat of European officials to the partner countries, but a clear indication of what we consider achievable and desirable in order to advance our partnership.

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members,

We have done much over the past year to implement our renewed European Neighbourhood Policy. However, we need to do even more.

To provide effective incentives for reform, the European Union needs to step up even further the pace of delivery. For instance it needs:

  • to promote European Union investments in partner countries;

  • to accelerate the process leading to Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas;

  • to encourage industrial cooperation and social dialogue.

As you can see in the progress reports, there are also reform challenges and sectors of co-operation on which we need to draw our partners’ attention to improve the pace of reform.

I look forward to the continued close cooperation with the Council of Europe in the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy. We will continue to draw on their knowledge, on their institutional scope and on their expertise to promote sustainable democracy in our neighbourhood.

I also look forward to the continued close involvement of the European Parliament. You have a crucial role to play in supporting sustainable democracy in our partner countries. As always, I am very grateful for the continued support of this Committee and your personal intense engagement with Parliaments and civil society of the countries in our neighbourhood.

Many thanks for your attention.

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