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European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy
Speech: Address to Heads of Delegations of the Neighbourhood region
Meeting with Heads of Delegations of the Neighbourhood region
Brussels, 14 January 2013
On the overall ENP framework
2012 has been a challenging year in our neighbourhood. Democratic transitions in southern neighbours are proving long and often difficult, despite some advances on democratic elections. In the Eastern neighbourhood also, the democratic transition remains uneven, although there has been more signs of positive developments from Moldova in particular.
Everywhere, the economic situation has been negatively affected by the crisis in Europe. This makes it more difficult for partners to embark and implement complex reform.
The EU itself has been absorbed by its own crisis and difficulties. This is of course making it more difficult to project our policy and launch new initiatives that also involve some short term economic pains or political courage.
We have also heard more voices calling into question the new approach to the European Neighbourhood Policy decided in 2011. It is not the time to change our course. We need to show strategic patience, focus on implementation and on making our offer more attractive to our partners, and more in line with their needs.
We also need to explain better the positive short term and long term consequences of the engagement with the EU under the ENP.
Challenges in implementing the ENP, in particular more for more, and other new incentives.
The next ENP package will be adopted on 20 March. It will include a communication, twelve country progress reports, two regional reports on East and South and a report with quantitative indicators of progress towards reform.
Our intention is that the package will be issued earlier than last year, so that the assessments of the progress reports can be better taken into account for the annual programming of financial assistance to partners, according to the principle of "more for more".
A key challenge in implementing more for more is how we assess progress. The assessment needs to be based on open consultation with a large number of stakeholders including civil society and verified against international indicators. Our assessment is captured in the ENP country progress reports.
Progress reports should be increasingly clear on what the EU regards as key to democratic transformation in each neighbour partner country.
The latest progress reports you have prepared show that some progress has been made in 2012 towards free and fair elections in the neighbourhood, but that much remains to be done in particular in the areas of civil freedoms and rule of law.
The EU will continue to offer partners as tangible incentives the 3Ms (money, market access and mobility of people) as well as technical cooperation sectors such as transport, energy, environmental protection and many others.
Main messages of 2013 communication
The Communication will focus on the state of implementation of the ENP and examine the general trends across our neighbourhood. It will point out that progress on the 2012 key recommendations for each partner was limited and concerned mainly the organization of free and fair elections. More work will be needed in 2013 to implement all key recommendations.
The Communication will stress the need for differentiation and for joint ownership with partners. It will call for a comprehensive approach to ENP also including CFSP and CSDP tools.
The Communication will also stress the need for better communication with stakeholders in partner countries, including civil society.
Outcome of consultations with stakeholders and importance to maintain these consultations also at local level
EEAS organised meetings with senior officials of Southern partners on 5 November and of Eastern partners on 4 December. The meetings took stock of ENP implementation so far and looked at challenges ahead. We had good discussions in a spirit of joint ownership.
Partners stressed the principle of differentiation. Southern partners asked for more sustained political dialogue with the EU. Eastern partners wished to make progress in relations with the EU by the November Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
We stressed the need for enhanced reform particularly in the area of deep and sustainable democracy, which would lead to stronger relations between partners and EU.
We agree that it is useful to ensure regularity in these senior officials meetings, with at least one meeting per year in a regional setting and a third one combining officials from both the South and Eastern regions.
As for civil society, numerous civil society organisations responded to our call for contributions and provided valuable information and data on the ENP implementation, in view of the preparation of the next progress reports. They also reminded the legal constraints on their activities in several partner countries.
I would like to stress my firm commitment to the involvement of civil society in the ENP and I encourage Delegations to hold a regular dialogue not only with authorities, but also with civil society in their countries ("structured dialogue").
Let me also briefly mention some of the suggestions which came out of a meeting I had last December with a group of think tanks and academics on ENP implementation. One of the ideas proposed is the engagement of the business circles. Business communities can potentially be important allies in stimulating transformation in partner countries. Think tanks also thought we need to better publicise our achievements and the benefits of our policy for the people if we want to gain support in partner countries. This is an important issue for Delegations, which have much greater knowledge than headquarters about concrete EU actions and their benefits. On this aspect, we count on your active involvement.
Update on ENI preparation and Programming
Negotiations on the future European Neighbourhood Instrument in the context of the next MFF have entered into a trilogue phase, with 3 meetings already having taken place.
An increased financial envelope for the ENI, as proposed by the Commission, would allow for enhanced EU cooperation with ENP partners and reflect the priority of EU relationship with its neighbours, though we hardly need to add that the climate for the budget negotiations remains difficult.
In terms of timing, we hope all the pending issues should be settled by the first trimester of 2013 in order not to jeopardize the programming of aid required for a seamless continuation of implementation of our support, but this is not assured.
The new Neighbourhood policy implies that every major change in the level of assistance is seen as a political message, either to encourage progress or signal reservations with regard to the implementation of the reforms. We will seek to avoid a mechanistic approach involving pre-determined amounts and country shares.
One of the key aspects for the ENI in the new MFF will be the implementation of the “incentive based approach” (”more-for-more”). There will be a direct link between progress reports and extra assistance. Therefore, Delegations need to report rapidly and accurately on Action Plan priorities.
We hope the future ENI Regulation will allow for the necessary flexibility to respond effectively and swiftly to challenges in partner countries and reward their performance. Let me add that Mutual Accountability also means that we must deliver promptly on our own promises.
Important for Delegations to ensure donor coordination on the ground, in consultation also with EU MS and civil society. Let me also stress that we see a lot of merit in joint programming and would encourage you to be proactive in this exercise. There is much added value to be gained by joint programming around the commonly EU defined objectives set out in the ENP Action Plans.