EU to strengthen Caucasus ties

The EU aims to take its partnership with the Southern Caucasus states “up a gear” through the visit of External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner to the region.

Europe’s access to energy supplies will feature high on the agenda of talks to be held by External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner during her visit to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia on 16 and 17 February. The visit is expected to give a boost to co-operation between the EU and the states in the South Caucasus region within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Ferrero-Waldner will meet with the heads of state of all three countries.

Prior to her departure, Ferrero-Waldner said that “2006 should be the year that takes our partnership up a gear” and added that “I also hope that in 2006 we can see good progress on the peaceful settlement of the conflicts in the region.”

The ENP’s underlying aim is to intensify relations and promote the participating states’ progressive integration into the EU internal market. Consultations on the EU’s individual Action Plans for Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia were launched late in 2005.

Between 1991 and 2004, the South Caucasus countries received over 1.2 billion euros worth of assistance from the EU. Assuming Turkey completes its accession talks with the EU, the Southern Caucasus states will be on the Union’s frontier.

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