New Neighbours Initiative and the Wider Europe
Delivered in Plenary - May 14th 2003
It is important to establish the EU's relations with its new neighbours, following the enlargement through a zone of prosperity and a ring of friends with whom the EU enjoys close, peaceful and cooperative economic relations.
In return for concrete progress, Russia and countries of the Western NIS and the Southern Mediterranean should be offeredthe prospect of a stake in the EU's internal market and participation in the so-called four freedoms - in effect, everything bar participation in the Institutions.
Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union allows any European state the opportunity of joining the Union, which is why accession has already been ruled out for the non-European Mediterranean partners. Russia and Belarus do not wish to join the European Union, being content with the PCA Agreement, and the Maghreb is planning to be part of an African Union. However, better engagement and cooperation with Belarus in areas of common interest is essential to encourage reform in that country.
In spite of Article 49, there is still a serious danger that Moldova and Ukraine will see the process as insufficiently differentiated and as a way of distancing the EU from their just membership aspirations. In addition, the suggestion thatthere should be additional freedom of movement of persons for all neighbouring countries would undermine the existing attempts to limit large-scale immigration into the EU. The movement of skilled and educated people to nearby countries would also create a serious brain-drain that would damage the economies of countries such as Moldova and Ukraine.
However, the EU is looking at ways of facilitating the crossing of external borders for bona fide third country nationals; after all, good fences make for good neighbours in my opinion.
Lastly, I propose that Phare and other successful pre-accession financial instruments, which have benefited acceding countries so much, be extended, along with the remit of the EIB to the Western NIS countries, which would replace the current limited Tacis Programme and approach, which carries no private sector economic investments.