European Neighbourhood Policy
Delivered in Plenary - 18th January 2006
First I should like to pay special tribute to my predecessor, Mr Laschet, from whom I inherited this report after his departure from the House.
I was initially sceptical when the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) concept was first floated in the 2003 communication on a wider Europe. The chief conceptual problem was how to coordinate a policy on countries that appear to have different and contradictory aims, such as Libya wanting to host the African Union at the time, and Ukraine wanting to join the European Union.
Political leadership is about turning concepts into reality and the ENP is now an established political reality accepted by the partner states. My report seeks to review its workings, bring additional recommendations from Parliament and clarify some of the misunderstandings surrounding it.
The ENP offers a privileged relationship between the EU and all its current non-Member State neighbours to the south and east. It excludes the current EU candidates for membership and the potential candidate countries of the western Balkans which have separate special arrangements. But what does the privilege bring? In short, two things: firstly, the greater sharing of democratic values, and secondly, aid and trade for promoting those values.
The ENP is therefore two-tracked: one lane promotes the values that underpin the European Union, namely, a commitment to common values regarding the rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights, the promotion of good-neighbourly relations and the principles of market economy and sustainable development; the other entails sanctions for failing them by restricting aid or trade privileges.
The aim ultimately is to establish a circle of friends around the European Union in which the essential task of promoting and enhancing prosperity, stability and security is carried out in partnership and to mutual advantage. There will be increased financial assistance through a single dedicated European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), also applicable to Russia, which from 2007 onwards will replace the current TACIS and MEDA programmes. However, I am concerned that the Commission might decouple the ENP from the ENPI budget, which will entail a substantial erosion of Parliament's powers of oversight and scrutiny.
The Commission has already presented a strategy paper and country reports on a series of ENP countries, followed by action plans. A regular reviewing process will monitor the implementation of those, for which I seek more parliamentary involvement. Seven action plans have been adopted with Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, the Palestinian Authority, Ukraine and Moldova. Five more are in preparation with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia and Lebanon.
I strongly support improved access for ENP countries to the single market and, in some cases, the eventual conclusion of neighbourhood agreements and the establishment of fully-fledged free trade agreements with the European Union. I also support participation in the ESDP/CFSP, including the various Council working groups, and membership, where appropriate, of the EU devolved agencies.
We also need better focus on drugs, weapons and people-trafficking and enhanced exchanges of criminal intelligence between national agencies in the fight against international terrorism and organised crime, as well as renewed efforts for the peaceful resolution of outstanding territorial disputes, including the frozen conflicts. By coincidence, today in London, Armenia and Azerbaijan are meeting to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh question.
Several ENP partner countries, such as Azerbaijan and Algeria, are rich in energy resources, as are the producers or transporters of oil and gas. Therefore, energy policy and EU energy security will be a key pillar of the ENP. The recent Russia/Ukraine gas crisis illustrates how energy policy and foreign policy now interface.
Lastly, I do not consider the ENP a fixed, long-term alternative to full EU membership for those democratic European countries entitled to apply which have expressed a desire to do so, such as Ukraine and Moldova. The report goes some way towards recognising their European aspirations.
In contrast, as for other former Central Asian Soviet states, such as Kazakhstan – although currently not a part of the ENP – the EU should give serious consideration, in my view, when their PCA agreements eventually expire, to extending their right to participate in this ambitious project if they so wish.