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European Commission

Štefan Füle

European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy

Press points: Presentation of the annual ENP Package

Press conference at the European Commission/ Brussels

20 March 2013

Good afternoon. I am here to share with you the main conclusions of the European Neighbourhood Policy Package adopted today jointly by the Commission and the High Representative Catherine Ashton.

This annual package takes stock of the state of implementation of the Neighbourhood Policy in 2012 and there are two major conclusions emerging from it:

First: the cooperation of the EU with its partner countries is stronger and delivers positive results. In spite of political instability and difficult socio-economic conditions in most of the countries, achievements are encouraging in many areas of cooperation.

Second: Political reforms are uneven in partner countries and progress towards sustainable democracy is not always straight forward.

In the South we see a mixed picture of progress in transition to democracy. Democratic elections were held in Egypt, Libya, Algeria and Jordan and the EU deployed election observation missions to some of them. But in several countries concerns remain about freedoms of assembly, association and expression, including media freedom, and the rights of women. Constitutional reform seems slow and there are still open questions about guarantees for the protection of universal human rights.

Countries in the East also take increasingly different paths. Moldova, Georgia and Armenia continued with democratic reforms, and held elections which were generally in conformity with international standards. Ukraine's parliamentary elections presented a mixed picture with several shortcomings and constituted a deterioration compared to standards previously achieved. Azerbaijan needs to make significant further efforts to meets its democratisation commitments. The elections in Belarus took place against an overall background of repression.

Now to some of the most significant achievements last year. They show that the EU has been delivering on its own commitments towards our partners.

  • We have made progress in the negotiations of association agreements, including DCFTAs, with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia. We have been able to conclude negotiations of the association agreement with Ukraine, although, as mentioned several times before, we need to see concrete steps by the authorities before signing it. Negotiations on Association Agreement with Azerbaijan continue.

  • We have launched negotiations for a DCFTA with Morocco just a few weeks ago. We hope to be able to launch negotiations with Tunisia soon, and we will continue the preparatory process with Jordan. Also we have started to implement an ambitious agricultural agreement with Morocco, countering claims that the EU remains closed to our partners´ products.

  • We continued to improve the mobility of people. Moldova took an important step forward in the implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan, and we started to discuss Visa Liberalisation with Georgia. 

  • We have reached an agreement on a Mobility Partnership with Morocco and continue negotiations with Tunisia. We started the dialogue with Jordan.

  • We also supported the mobility of students, academics, researchers, and young people through programs like Tempus, Erasmus Mundus, Youth in Action, etc. allowing more than 3 250 scholarships. This is important because mobility of people stimulates the mobility of ideas and values.

  • The EU continued to provide financial support for the transition and reforms based on the principle “more for more”. We made available additional financial resources worth EUR 1 billion in the period 2011-13.  

  • The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have also extended their lending capacities in partner countries to about EUR 2,7 billion.

  • In an effort to help to tackle poverty and unemployment we have launched new initiatives such as ENPARD (European Neighbourhood Program for Agriculture and Rural Development) or Pilot Program for Regional Development.

  • We will continue to plea for stronger involvement of civil society organisations in the design and monitoring of reforms and we are increasing our financial support for them.

  • And we are focused not only on the bilateral track. In the Southern Neighbourhood, the EU took over the Northern co-Presidency of the Union for Mediterranean and is active in turning it into effective catalyst for the development of regional project. We have also adopted a communication proposing initiatives to support for the integration of Maghreb countries.

  • We have intensified the cooperation with other stakeholders, like the Council of Europe, the OSCE, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum or Anna Lindh Foundation. We have increased efforts aimed at better coordinating with other international donors.

  • We have also continued to press for the resolution of conflicts, both in the East and the South, either through direct involvement or through confidence building, people-to-people contacts and conflict transformation activities through funding diverse programs promoting peaceful conflict settlement.

Finally, the European Neighbourhood Policy is an important instrument to accompany our partners in their transformation and to express our commitment to the mutually beneficial cooperation. But it is not offering quick fixes and cannot replace own efforts by the countries themselves. In any case the ENP is the most comprehensive and flexible policy we have to engage with, and to support our neighbours.

To make it work even more effectively we started the reality check and are keen for feedback from partners. That's why we initiated meetings of senior officials from the East and South to evaluate the ENP. Because our Neighbourhood Policy is not a static doctrine, it is an evolving instrument, flexible to adapt according to the needs of our partners.

Engaging with the neighbours is not a matter of choice. We cannot ignore what is happening in our closest neighbourhood. Nor can we ignore that the people there look at Europe as a source of inspiration for the reforms.

It is clear that the transition to democracy will need time. But irrespective of the difficulties, we need to maintain engagement in the Neighbourhood and respond to the different pace and direction of reforms in individual countries by differentiating even more between them.

The EaP summit in Vilnius this November will be an important milestone for our Eastern European partners. We hope to see democratic transitions continue in the South, and will continue supporting all of them – based on the values and principles defined in our Neighbourhood Policy. Here I would like to appreciate the cooperation with High Representative Catherine Ashton on the success of the Neighbourhood Policy for us and our partners.

In parallel to the announcement of the ENP package, we also publish today the results of the second wave of the EU Neighbourhood Barometer. Among other findings it shows that our Neighbours are positive about the relations their country has with the EU. More than half of those surveyed describe these as good in the southern Neighbourhood and 45% in the Eastern Neighbourhood.

For me, the most important finding of this survey is the fact that people are citing ‘human rights’ and ‘solidarity’ as the characteristics which best represent the EU in the Eastern and Southern partner countries.

This shows that the EU is the point of reference for these two very important values - solidarity and human rights. These are the shared values we try to defend - not only in our countries but also beyond -  in our neighbourhood. And we will continue to do so. 

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