'Ring of Friends' taking Root under European neighbourhood policy
Europe Information - www.eis.be - 21 January 2006
European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), under which the EU looks to boost links with its neighbours to the East and South, has received a vote of confidence from the MEP in charge of drafting a report on the subject. Speaking on January 18 in Strasbourg, Charles Tannock (EPP-ED, UK) said he was initially sceptical when the ENP concept was first floated in 2003. But, he went on, "ENP is now an established political reality accepted by the partner states". However, he added that ENP should not be seen as a fixed, long-term alternative to full EU membership for the likes of Ukraine and Moldova, and suggested that Central Asian states might eventually also be included in the policy.
The debate at the European Parliament plenary session also saw EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner outline some upcoming ENP steps - including, for example, starting negotiations on agricultural and fishery products with Mediterranean partners, and working on 'visa facilitation' (easing visa procedures) with Ukraine and Moldova. A full ENP progress report would be issued at the end of 2006, she said.
MEPs adopted Mr Tannock's report on January 19, calling for ENP to be used as a strong tool for consolidating democracy and the rule of law in countries neighbouring the EU. The policy covers Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.