Commission seeks closer ties with neighbours

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The executive is stepping-up financial assistance to help speed reforms in neighbouring countries and seeks closer co-operation to secure energy supplies.

On 4 December 2006 the Commission presented the results of the ENP Action Plans that were launched in 2005 (Ukraine, Moldova, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Tunisia and Morocco). The reports praise the progress made, especially by Ukraine, Morocco and Jordan.

External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: “There is scope to increase the impact of this policy. We can do more.  We have listened to our partners and today I am making proposals responding to what they have told us.”

The Commission proposes:

  • To foster co-operation with neighbour countries in economic and trade terms and ease visa procedures;
  • more co-operation concerning the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), co-ordination of positions in international organisations and participation in EU agencies, and; 
  • increased sectoral co-operation in key sectors, such as energy, transport, the environment, migration and public health.

The ENP sectoral progress report stresses: “Energy cooperation with ENP countries is crucial for the EU’s energy security and has been significantly enhanced.” The EU is also increasing co-operation through the Euro-Mediterranean Energy Forum and the Energy initiative for the Black Sea region and has already developed agreements on close energy co-operation with Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Algeria. The EU also signed another agreement on energy co-operation with Kazakhstan on 4 December 2006.

The Commission has also decided to give away more “carrots” in order to bring about reforms in its neighbouring countries. The ENP budget for 2007-13 amounts to €12 billion. Of this, €1bn will go to two new funds. These comprise a €300 million fund to support governance reform and another €700 million to co-fund the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) borrowing, in hopes that member states will step up their contributions to €7bn. Such funds could be used, for example, to finance energy infrastructure programmes.

The Commission's ENP strategy also reflects the priorities of the German EU Presidency, which puts an emphasis on energy and climate change. Ferrero-Waldner said: "The German presidency aims to make ENP a key priority and this gives us an opportunity to strengthen ENP." She also added that the German presidency would focus more on the Eastern neighbours, while the following Portuguese presidency will concentrate on the Southern neighbours, thereby balancing the two regions under the ENP hat.

The Commission gave a rebuff to the membership aspirations of Ukraine and Moldova. Ukraine’s Ambassador to the EU, Roman Shpek, heavily criticised the Commission’s decision and said: "Ukraine cannot accept to be treated in the same way as non-European countries."

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was launched in 2004 and includes 16 neighbouring countries to the South (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, West Bank and Gaza Strip) and East (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) of the EU’s borders. Its aim is to create an area of prosperity and co-operation around the Union through individual ENP Action Plans, without offering an accession perspective. In fact, it is often seen as an alternative to enlargement, but nevertheless misses out on the essential "carrot" to bring about painful reforms: the membership perspective.

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