Situation in Georgia
European Neighbourhood Policy - 14th November 2007
I too would like to join in thanking both Mr Beglitis, who is now a Greek MP in his national Parliament, and his successor Mr Obiols i Germà for excellent cross-party cooperation and eventual consensus as co-rapporteurs of this key report.
It is self-evident that everybody needs good neighbours. In an uncertain and ever-changing world, the EU needs to develop good and enhanced relationships with countries on its periphery that are based on security, stability and mutual benefit to all. So far the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is proving to be a valuable tool in this process, in creating a ring of friends aimed at improved trade, travel and political cooperation, particularly against terrorism and people trafficking. But, of course, of utmost importance are the shared values and in particular reinforcing democracy, the rule of law and human rights as our main priority.
ENP policy was conceived somewhat hastily, I have to say to the Commission. Some would argue that a blanket arrangement for all southern Euromed and Eastern European countries and the South Caucasus neighbouring countries cannot be an enduring foreign policy idea for the European Union. Nevertheless, our report fully accepts that for the foreseeable future this unitary policy is here to stay and Parliament will engage with it as it is.
Nevertheless, clearly Moldova is not the same as Morocco. Countries in the southern dimension are not European and therefore have no real prospects of EU membership. In the East, which is my side of the report, however, there are at least two countries in my view – Ukraine and Moldova – that are allowed to accede under Article 49 of the Maastricht Treaty, as they are undeniably European in nature.
Certainly, matters in terms of visa facilitation, readmission and, post-Ukraine’s WTO accession – which we hope will happen next year – a deep EU free trade agreement, these are all progressing well with a country such as Ukraine, and I hope these will be extended to Moldova and eventually to other South Caucasus countries in due course.
In my view the eventual ENP aim to the East must be visa-free travel.
The ENP will help generally to consolidate these countries’ wishes to anchor themselves firmly within EU institutions. In Moldova’s case, the ENP may prove to be a significant boost to the resolution of the Transnistria frozen conflicts. Nevertheless, these Eastern European ENP countries need to know for sure, by the EU Council and Commission, that membership is ultimately available to them and that the ENP is not just a delaying tactic to frustrate these countries’ membership ambitions.
The report also recognises the suffering of the people of Belarus and the bravery of the country’s democratic forces. We need to be ready, as and when the Lukashenko regime crumbles, to welcome Belarus back into the ENP and grant it, too, a European perspective.
The report proposes the development of a joint parliamentary assembly for the European Parliament and Eastern ENP countries, provisionally dubbed ‘EURO-NEST’. It draws on the success of similar structures, such as the Euromed Parliamentary Assembly, which is already up and running and basically is the southern dimension of parliamentary cooperation for the ENP, as well as the Barcelona Process, and the more famous ACP Assembly. I am personally convinced that EURO-NEST would strengthen democratic institutions in Eastern ENP countries. It would hasten an end to the isolation of Belarus and enable, for instance, Azerbaijani and Armenian parliamentarians to discuss the potentially explosive Nagorno-Karabakh frozen conflict, where a war could once again break out, given the amount of petrodollars flowing into the Azerbaijani Government’s treasuries and the rhetoric on both sides of the divide.
The EU has become far too dependent as well on Russian energy resources, so we all agree that we must develop alternative sources. That is why our report, when it went through the Committee on Foreign Affairs, proposed the idea of bringing Kazakhstan potentially one day as a possibility into the ENP. However, now, I am afraid to say, this is sadly no longer supported by the major political groups, so it may well be taken out of the report tomorrow at the vote. We would have had access through this process to Kazakhstan’s vast natural resources, while the EU would help further reforms in this vast – geographically speaking – secular country of strategic importance. If it is indeed pulled closer one day to Russia and China, which I am sure is the intent of those two powers, we will be ruing the day that we took such a precipitous decision to keep Kazakhstan at arm’s length.