President. – The next item is the report by Charles Tannock, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the European neighbourhood policy (2004/2166(INI) (A6-0399/2005).
Charles Tannock (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – Mr President, 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.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to thank the rapporteur for this very good report on the European neighbourhood policy, which will give me the opportunity to come back to the priorities for the next several months on this important issue.
As we have reiterated on several occasions since its inception in 2003, the neighbourhood policy is an ambitious policy. It remains the number one issue – at least in my own portfolio – in EU external relations, because it is so important to promote prosperity, stability and security. The stakes for our neighbouring countries are very high. It is clearly in the interests of the European Union to have well-governed and democratic partners in our neighbourhood which can finally join in the positive dynamics of sustainable social and economic development. As you mentioned, it is also in our interests that conflicts in our vicinity are peacefully resolved and that issues like migration, border control, organised crime and terrorism are tackled in a more effective way through closer cooperation.
The year 2005 has been the first year of delivery for the ENP, with the beginning of the implementation of the first seven ENP action plans.
What do we want to do in the future? The Commission has been active on a broad front, including, for example, progress on market economy status; visa facilitation and energy issues for Ukraine; the border assistance mission on the Moldovan/Ukrainian border; creating new fora in which to discuss issues such as democracy, human rights and governance, for instance with our Mediterranean partners – I need only recall the Euromed Conference in Barcelona in November; the preparations to pursue our educational cooperation and in particular to extend twinning and technical assistance and information exchange programmes to TAIEX programmes to our partners; and our proposal for a new European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument – the ENPI – that will not be decoupled from the neighbourhood policy.
It must be said that for 2006 and 2007 it will be crucial for the further development of ENP to deliver, and there is a considerable onus on our partners regarding implementation, because we will continue to deliver on our own commitments, but how the partner countries react is very important. We will continue the implementation of the ENP action plans in close cooperation with our partners. At the end of 2006 we will issue a full progress report covering the implementation. We will also open certain programmes and agencies to ENP partners. For instance, we will start negotiations on agricultural and fishery products with our Mediterranean partners. We will work on visa facilitation issues with Ukraine and Moldova. For Ukraine the mandate is already there. We will also adopt the ENPI as soon as possible and hopefully provide it with adequate resources so that it can be fully operational from January 2007. We are convinced that the ENPI will give us a better, more flexible and more focused instrument with which we can support reforms and cross-border cooperation.
Both we and our partners are facing a major challenge to turn the commitments contained in the action plans into real concrete action. Implementation is always the most important test and will depend very much on the partner countries’ political will and on our capacity, but also their capacity, to implement the commitments taken in the action plans. Let me assure you that we will do everything in our power to do so.
Let me also briefly say that the gas dispute of 1 January has shown how important the energy question has become. Let me also say that we must urgently draw the consequences of this gas dispute and the energy question for our external policy. I intend to give the highest priority to developing an effective foreign energy policy which will aim at the most effective guarantee possible of the security of the EU energy supply. We are not starting from scratch, as many instruments already exist, but they need further exploitation and an energy dialogue with Russia that has already covered much ground and provided us with a good basis to address bilateral aspects is there, but we have to make it really profound and we have to go on. We recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine on energy and, in addition, we will provide expertise to Ukraine and Moldova. Therefore, there is a multidimensional aspect and we shall address that through institutions such as G8, the International Energy Agency, the OSCE and others. We have the Energy Charter Treaty, which Russia has not yet joined, but we also have the South-East Europe Energy Community Treaty as instruments on which we will build. That means the neighbourhood policy will certainly also have to tackle these questions in the right format. But, again, as I said today in another context, we will also need coherence from the Member States.
Elmar Brok, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank both the rapporteur for his work and his predecessor Mr Laschet for what he did by way of preparation for it; I am also grateful to Mrs Ferrero-Waldner for her contribution to the fact that the neighbourhood policy is taking us into an extremely important area. This not only helps these countries, but is also a policy for stability and peace in our own interests.
I think that the action programmes must be based on an adequately funded financial instrument, and also that, in cooperation with the European Parliament – in line with the division of roles we have to respect – important areas must be included.
Involving our neighbours in several policy areas increases the bonds between us in terms of economic policy, including aid for their political development, respect for human rights and much more. The example of energy policy has already been mentioned, which involves, for example, providing aid to Ukraine. Helping Ukraine to keep hold of its own gas pipelines, and prevent them falling into other hands, is in our own interests too.
I would like to emphasise that this is equally important for Eastern Europe and for the Mediterranean. In individual cases, however, we may use different methods and arenas to achieve the goals of the neighbourhood policy. For the countries of Eastern Europe, there is a European perspective that is important in legitimising domestic reform efforts and in supporting the government so that they can do this.
This does not, however, mean that every country automatically has the prospect of accession, as the French Prime Minister, Mr De Villepin, said today in his speech in Berlin. We may also have to find methods that do not necessarily result in accession at the end of the road. We should therefore also consider whether the development of this policy should also lead to a 'European Economic Area plus'. I am using that just as a working title and as a multilateral offer that, in principle, leaves the door open for EU membership if the countries are capable of it and the European Union is willing and able to accept them. We in Parliament are currently debating whether this could be a possibility. However, that is not the purpose of this report, which acts as an intermediate step for some of the Balkan states with which accession negotiations have not yet been started, without calling into question the Thessaloniki accession commitment.
We have a lot to do here, Commissioner, and I would like, on behalf of my group, to offer you the support necessary to make progress in close cooperation.
Pasqualina Napoletano, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (IT) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Tannock, ladies and gentlemen, first of all I should like to invite the Commission to take the report before us into serious consideration, since it did not do so with the resolution adopted by this Parliament in 2003. That resolution, in fact, contains a series of useful suggestions for enhancing the neighbourhood policy, which is one of the most important challenges facing Europe. The constructive relations that we shall be able to develop with our neighbours in fact represent the only prospect for creating peace and security around our borders.
There are two main reasons why this will not be an easy task. The first is that we are surrounded by areas of great instability and conflict: from Chechnya to Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. Secondly, the aim of this policy is not accession to the Union, which makes it more difficult to succeed in influencing both internal reform in the various countries and relations among those countries and between them and the Union.
Some of the countries currently involved in the neighbourhood policy look forward to achieving full EU membership – the rapporteur has already mentioned the cases of Ukraine and Moldova. Even if we do not rule out that prospect, we should at least be honest and say that membership is not currently feasible, both because of the Union’s internal situation and because of the progress that those countries themselves still need to make. All that, however, provides further support for this policy.
The aspect that I have chosen to emphasise is the enhancement of the overall vision of the neighbourhood policy, even though it covers diverse areas in the east, south-east and south, as well as countries that differ greatly among themselves. Security, energy, immigration, the environment and human rights require vision and political dialogue, as well as specific institutions in order to be able to make progress together.
Together with the action plans that the Commission is negotiating, this is the dimension that needs to be enhanced, including by means of specific policies, such as the energy policy, which the Commissioner singled out. Back in 2003, Parliament pointed out that energy was an area that required attention in relations with neighbouring countries; today we reiterate that need for attention and call for a communication to be drawn up on those aspects of energy policy that concern our foreign and neighbourhood policy.
I shall conclude, therefore, with my initial appeal to the Commission and the Commissioner, who has an excellent relationship with us: do not undervalue the European Parliament’s contribution.
Paavo Väyrynen, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (FI) Mr President, the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is very happy with the content of Mr Tannock’s report, but we would have liked to see a few conceptual improvements to it.
The Commission originally used the expression ‘neighbourhood policy’ alongside the concept of a ‘Wider Europe’. That has generally referred to the whole of Europe in both scientific and political debate. Mr Tannock’s report contains a lot of views on how to develop pan-European cooperation, including that within the framework of the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, but this is not taken into account in its subheadings. We would therefore propose replacing the unfortunately worded subheading after point 30 with the words ‘Wider Europe’.
The Liberal Group also proposed that the concept of the ‘Southern Dimension’ should have a place in the report. It would be a more apt description of the Union’s external relations with the south, the Mediterranean region, the wider Middle East and the countries east of that. It would be logical to speak of the Northern and Southern Dimension of Union policy at the same time.
Our third conceptual suggestion was that the report ought to have contained the idea of Europe developing as a system of concentric circles, consisting on the one hand of flexible differentiation within the Union and, on the other, of the creation of functional circles of cooperation around it. This notion provides an opportunity for seeking a solution to the conflict between the Union’s consolidation and expansion. The idea received support in discussions between the groups but no one wanted to include it in this report. I wonder why not. As we did not receive sufficient support from the other groups for the realisation of this or any of our other proposals for conceptual improvements, we will not be including them in the voting sessions. We will wait until a more appropriate time to adopt them.
I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr Tannock, for his excellent levels of cooperation, and especially for having adopted our proposal to endorse the Northern Dimension in the report, and also the proposals relating to pan-European cooperation, even though this important Wider Europe concept was omitted.
Marie Anne Isler Béguin, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, I am grateful to Mr Tannock, who took up the torch on this report, for his availability and his willingness to listen with regard to the very complex issues that arise when defining the neighbourhood policy.
The neighbourhood policy became a necessity with the arrival of the new Member States and, in involving all the bordering countries to the East around the Mediterranean, it has become one of the key elements and strong points in the EU's external policy. For this action, the Union has taken on a considerable responsibility and it will have a tough job to avoid dashing the hopes of our neighbours. Indeed, a new dynamism has been born in these countries, which now expect that the Union will support them in the process of democratisation, stabilisation and sustainable development that they have launched. In some countries, it is even a prerequisite for future accession. We therefore have to avoid a number of pitfalls if we are to make a success of the neighbourhood policy.
It must include a multilateral dimension and provide an institutional framework within which the partner countries are fully involved in defining European policy. It must not be limited simply to a free trade area but be based on a real sharing of common values, democracy and human rights. The neighbourhood policy must work to consolidate civil society by setting up a civil forum where NGOs can follow the action plans, which, Commissioner, will not be cooperation plans Mark 2 but specific and effective plans, with a Union determined to monitor them and implement them according to specific criteria.
It is with a certain amount of pride, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, that I will support the action plans for the countries of the southern Caucasus, because the fact that Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are part of this neighbourhood policy is thanks to us in the European Parliament and not to the Commission and the Council.
Today, these three former Soviet republics bear a heavy burden of history. The neighbourhood policy should help them to find an answer to their frozen conflicts. The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh must be dealt with; the refugees – particularly the Azerbaijanis – must be able to go home; the destruction of historic Armenian monuments in Nakhichevan is unacceptable; Turkey must reopen its border with Armenia; Russia cannot, on the one hand, have a privileged partnership with the EU and, on the other hand, issue passports to Georgian separatists; and the EU must support the peace plan in Georgia for South Ossetia and help to draw up a plan for Abkhazia.
As you can see, strong involvement from the EU, via the drafting of a stability pact in the southern Caucasus to achieve a peaceful resolution to these conflicts, is absolutely vital and will be a win-win strategy. It will help these countries to find the path to development and lasting peace and it will bring the EU considerable credit in a region dominated by the influence of Russia and the United States. Let us make the neighbourhood policy the spearhead of a successful common global security policy.
Erik Meijer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (NL) Mr President, neighbourhood policy can take two forms, and they are both very different. The first is based on pure self-interest, on attempts to make the environment subservient to the economic and military demands developed within the European Union. Countries pursuing this model are happy to have as neighbours countries that supply them with oil and gas, that keep refugees from their territory and that subject their own people to dictatorial measures designed to stop the interests of the countries adhering to this model from being adversely affected.
In a model of that kind, neighbourhood policy is also a means of keeping those countries that experience a lower standard of living, less democracy and fewer human rights out of the rich Fortress Europe once and for all. All that those countries are needed for is to provide cheap labour. Neighbourhood policy of that kind is very reminiscent of the way in which the United States treated Latin America for two centuries.
There is also a totally different form of neighbourhood policy possible, namely one that recognises that we in this part of Europe have organised many things better than in other countries and that we have something to offer them. Promoting democracy and human rights in Belarus, Tunisia, Algeria and those Palestinian regions that are still occupied is in keeping with this type of policy. It also means that we contribute to economic development which should raise the level of prosperity in those countries to our level. In a number of cases, namely the Western Balkans, but possibly also in Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Turkey, it could also represent a transitional phase to full EU membership.
Whilst my group emphatically denounces the first form of neighbourhood policy, it wholeheartedly embraces the second. Fortunately, it is this second variant that dominates Mr Tannock’s report. Also, most amendments put democracy, human rights and solidarity above economic and military advantage. If the Council and the Commission follow this line, then our neighbourhood policy is bound to move in the right direction.
Bastiaan Belder, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – (NL) Mr President, Mr Tannock is right to devote some of his interesting report to the current situation in one of the EU’s neighbouring countries, namely Belarus. Particularly in Paragraph 56, he calls on all European institutions to increase their support for Belarus’s civil society activities and of its political opposition.
With that in mind, I should like to ask the Commissioner how the Brussels plans to post a delegation to Minsk are coming along. That delegation should be able to actually operate on the basis of its own objectives, on the basis of the shared commitment of the Union’s Member States to the democratic rule of law. An ideal channel for communication between the Commission and Belarusian civil society, it could, eventually, also be a conditio sine qua non for adopting an active neighbourhood policy with Belarus.
I am afraid that President Lukashenko’s current authoritarian regime would not be very keen on this. It would probably prefer a toothless European delegation on its own territory as a means of legitimising itself in the eyes of the international community. I would ask the Commissioner if this attitude from Minsk might hinder the European delegation being posted to the Belarusian capital.
Mr Tannock also calls on all parties involved to come to a political settlement of the long-standing Transnistria issue. Ominously for Moldova, two of the parties involved, namely Russia and Ukraine, issued a joint declaration about the Transnistria conflict, without involving Chisinau, just a month ago, in mid-December 2005. In fact, Presidents Putin and Yushchenko did not involve the United States, the European Union or Romania either for that matter. Between the two of them, they appointed themselves as ‘guarantee powers’ in Moldova and Transnistria. Could this be a repeat of previous action taken by Yevgeni Primakov in 1997, which, in fact, received no international backing whatsoever and was emphatically rejected by Moldova?
In passing, Putin and Yushchenko have now also appointed themselves as being responsible for ‘peace, stability and the well-being of the people of Moldova, Russians and Ukrainians on both banks of the Dniester’. That is simply tantamount to a Russian-Ukrainian condominium. At the same time, on 15 December 2005, Kiev and Moscow accepted each other’s solutions for the Transnistria conflict as being ‘complementary’. These are transparent proposals which, in my view, amount to the confirmation of a geographical division of Moldova, of an international legitimacy of Russia’s military presence in Transnistria and of a ‘democratic, neutral state of Moldova’.
I would ask the Commissioner how he interprets this bilateral agreement between Putin and Yushchenko on Moldova’s future in the context of the European neighbourhood policy. I am looking forward to your response to my two questions.
Konrad Szymański, on behalf of the UEN Group. – (PL) Mr President, I would like to highlight a number of key principles that should feature in any sound and effective neighbourhood policy.
Firstly, such a policy must not be presented as something diametrically opposed to membership of the European Union. On the contrary, in the case of a European country, a successful neighbourhood policy should bring membership closer. Clearly, neighbourhood does not automatically entail membership, but it can result in membership.
Secondly, it should be emphasised that the level of aid must be conditional on the willingness to comply with democratic standards demonstrated by the neighbouring or partner country. This applies especially to the case of Belarus, where it is not possible for us to cooperate with the government. It also ought to apply to Russia, however, because there has been a notable drop in compliance with democratic standards in that country during the actual period of implementation of partnership agreements. It is my impression that what we are doing in Russia is helping to build roads that are subsequently used to transport people sentenced unfairly, or oil pipelines from which we are subsequently denied oil.
The third principle is as follows. Wherever an inadequate level of democracy is noted, we ought to make a particular effort to support civil society and democratic forces. To be able to do this effectively, we need to be able to rely on a special instrument for human rights. Such an instrument should be sufficiently flexible to serve as an effective tool in a hostile legal and political environment.
These principles are contained in the Tannock report and endorsed by it. My group is therefore pleased to vote in favour of the report.
Ryszard Czarnecki (NI). – (PL) Mr President, the European neighbourhood policy, today’s debate, and the resolution before us prove that although the Union is experiencing a crisis, we have not yet lost the ability to think strategically. We recognise the importance of opening up to our neighbours. The economic problems of the enlarged Union and the difficulties over the adoption of the Constitution must not deter us from developing a vision of the future beyond the next elections in our individual countries.
Relations with our neighbours to the east and south-east are particularly important aspects of our neighbourhood policy. The draft resolution quite rightly refers to Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and the countries of the Southern Caucasus in general. It is also right that we should recognise the mistake we made by not exerting appropriate influence on Russia to ensure the latter played its part in stabilising rather than destabilising the situation in the former Soviet republics.
I should like to make an observation to Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner. We cannot expect anyone to conduct Europe’s neighbourhood policy on our behalf. It should not be foisted onto the G8 or the OECD or become a political football. We need to keep a fundamental principle in mind too. This is that financial aid within the framework of the newly created European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument must be controlled, as Mr Szymański mentioned earlier. We must not further the interests of undemocratic governments. The latter must be required to support democracy in those societies and governmental structures, and to promote human rights standards.
In conclusion, the European neighbourhood policy is an opportunity for the Union, not an onerous duty. We would do well to remember this.
Paweł Bartłomiej Piskorski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, we all firmly believe that the European neighbourhood policy is a key element in the development of a common foreign and security policy for the European Union. We are also aware that our neighbourhood policy needs to be such that it can be adapted to the needs of individual countries. After all, it will affect countries that are very different from each other, such as Morocco and Ukraine.
We are also aware that whilst retaining the flexibility of this instrument we should not forget that we are dealing with two kinds of situations. It is worth highlighting this fact. There are situations where what is involved is deepening and broadening cooperation in areas such as energy and security, and moving on into other appropriate areas. The North African countries are a good example. We also have to deal with the situation in quite different countries such as Belarus and Syria, where we are confronted by dictatorships and undemocratic scenarios. The European neighbourhood policy should serve as an instrument through which we can press for the democratisation of those countries.
We are pleased to note that the Tannock report responds to these challenges and it is therefore worthy of support. A very good point of departure is that this neighbourhood policy should not be perceived as an alternative to the future accession of these countries to the European Union. Nobody seriously believes countries like Moldova, Belarus or Ukraine will soon join the European Union. What is important, however, is to leave the door open to enable European countries to apply for membership pursuant to the treaties.
We also call for Amendment 55 and Amendment 52 tabled by Mr Klich to be supported. Amongst other things, they entail referring to the Belarussian regime as what it is, namely an undemocratic regime.
Pierre Schapira (PSE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased with this resolution on the European neighbourhood policy. It comprehensively covers all the priorities set by Parliament for this policy: human rights, democracy, immigration, the environment and free trade.
However, one vital subject is completely missing: development cooperation. Let me remind you that, of the 17 countries covered by the neighbourhood policy, 12 are developing countries, and a third of those are regarded as low-income countries. The current reform of the external action instruments means that these 12 developing countries will not be covered by the future cooperation and development instrument. As a result, if the neighbourhood policy does not include a development policy, these 12 countries will no longer get any development assistance from us.
I find it regrettable, however, that a text with as general and broad a political focus as this one makes no reference to cooperation. We cannot reasonably talk about increasing the prosperity of a region without, at the same time, making a commitment to eradicating poverty. Are the basic needs of the people of Azerbaijan, Moldova or Palestine currently being met? How can these countries fight dictatorship and be competitive in the market economy when some of their people do not even have access to drinking water, social services, healthcare and basic education? How do we expect to achieve the Millennium Development Goals if we cannot even combat poverty on our own doorstep?
As I see it, adopting a resolution on the neighbourhood policy that chooses to overlook the objective of eradicating poverty would be a serious error of judgment for which, unfortunately, we would have to bear responsibility in the future.
Diana Wallis (ALDE). – Mr President, Commissioner, I would like to speak as Chairwoman of the Delegation for relations with Switzerland, Iceland and Norway and of the Delegation to the European Economic Area (EEA) Joint Parliamentary Committee. I was sorry to see paragraph 43 of the report, which rather churlishly lumps these countries in with the rest of our neighbours and/or puts them on a par with Andorra and the Vatican State. Sadly, it is not the first time that has happened in this Parliament.
By my amendment I wanted at the very least to refer to EEA-EFTA. Indeed, we should appreciate that our own Member States are members of the EEA. This is a close and deep relationship which already entails full participation in the internal market and other EU programmes. Further, the EEA-EFTA countries are in fact already our partners and fellow contributors in building democracy and other activities within our new neighbours.
I think Mr Tannock will understand a British footballing analogy. Whilst these countries do not currently aspire to the Premiership, to be full members, they are currently in the Championship and certainly not down at the bottom somewhere in the Conference League.
I believe we hope to repeat a meeting with the EEA-EFTA Foreign Ministers and our Committee on Foreign Affairs. I hope my amendment will save some embarrassment about the way we perceive our oldest and closest partners and neighbours and also about our understanding of EEA-EFTA.
Cem Özdemir (Verts/ALE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, we too welcome Mr Tannock's report, and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Laschet quite particularly for his previous work.
An important point in this report is undoubtedly point 4, which once again states that it must be ensured that there are stimuli for democratic reform and that economic development is promoted. The EU must pay closer attention than in the past to ensuring that the democracy clauses in our agreements with third countries are taken seriously, and that they have consequences – both positive and negative. The report refers in this connection to an effective monitoring mechanism. It would be a major step forward if we could establish the Fundamental Rights Agency that we are going to discuss here on another occasion, as it would give us an instrument with which we could effectively assess the situation in the partner countries.
However, it is also the case that the bilateral approach that the European neighbourhood policy has been following since 2003, which we expressly support, can do justice to the variety of countries. We must not forget, though, that there is another approach: the Barcelona Process with its regional approach. We would be well advised to treat them as complementary and – in order to forge a homogeneous policy for the European Union – to combine the strengths of both approaches.
I would also like to refer particularly to the field of migration policy, which unfortunately currently plays no part in the Barcelona Process. We would be well advised to discuss this matter with the southern Mediterranean countries. We all remember the terrible images from Ceuta and Melilla, which affected us in the European Union. We obviously need to discuss issues of borders, readmission agreements and asylum procedures. At the same time, though, we also need to talk about the humane treatment of refugees and to improve the overall situation in these countries. I am delighted that the European Union is strengthening its activities regarding education. We must do a lot more in this field. I am thinking in particular of the young people in the countries to the south of the Mediterranean, who must be given a chance for future participation in their countries. Only if young people have opportunities in their own countries will they stay there and use their knowledge to improve the welfare and democratic organisation of their societies.
Finally, I would like to remind you of the situation in Egypt. We are all aware of the detention of the opposition politician Aiman Nur, and I think that I speak for all of us when I express our solidarity with him, and with everybody else campaigning for democracy and human rights there, at times under difficult conditions.
Esko Seppänen (GUE/NGL). – (FI) Mr President, the report by the Committee on Foreign Affairs drafted by Mr Tannock is thorough in many respects. It contains many views in politically delicate areas for which nobody needs to take responsibility. The report has been produced on the committee’s own initiative in an area in which the European Parliament has no competence.
The report reflects the trend where hope of help and support has to be given to countries not in the Union. That way there is a desire to bind the countries included in the neighbourhood policy, many of which are not neighbours of the EU, to the Union politically. The report’s position on which countries may accede to the European Union is not clear. One does not want to tell Ukraine, for example, that it is not eligible or that is eligible, even though Ukraine is a much more European country than Turkey. In actual fact, Ukrainian membership in the long term is such a long way off that it is not in sight at all.
For what are very flimsy reasons, the report includes mentions of the EU Constitution instead of reflecting on how membership of the Union might be approached via, and from the point of view of, a structure such as the European Economic Area.
A corrupt administration is part of daily life in many neighbouring countries. It would, for example, be interesting to know who owns Ros-Ukr-Energo, which administers the gas agreement between Russia and Ukraine. Can even the President of Ukraine be innocent regarding that issue? Since the ‘orange revolution’ Ukraine has been an example of corrupt government. Azerbaijan, for example, or Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, which are where the original sources of gas and oil are located further east, should also be assessed from this standpoint of state abuse, just as Belarus is, and not just from the viewpoint of gas and oil deliveries.
Gerard Batten (IND/DEM). – Mr President, the European neighbourhood policy calls for the consolidating of democracy and the rule of law in the EU's neighbouring countries. How can the EU seriously consolidate democracy in non-EU countries when the central driving force of EU membership is itself the inexorable removal of any real, meaningful, democratic accountability in its Member States? How can the EU seriously call for the extension of the rule of law in non-member countries when the EU itself ignores its own laws?
I speak, of course, of the proposed EU Constitution which should be dead under Treaty law because of the 'no' votes in the French and Dutch referendums. Instead, however, the Constitution is being kept on a life-support machine until the inconvenience of democratic rejection can be overcome by some underhand means. Mr Tannock would do better to concern himself with the interests of those he was elected to represent rather than those who did not elect him.
Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis (UEN). – (LV) Commissioner, President-in-Office of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, the report by Mr Tannock provides excellent testimony to the problem and to the European Union’s capacities to enforce its own interests and policies in the geopolitical area surrounding the European Union.
Of course, a democratic, stable and prosperous neighbouring country is the best guarantee of development and security. As the author of the report states with good reason, however, the EU neighbourhood policy ought to be made more effective through increased precision in the criteria for its objectives, priorities and evaluation. In implementing the European neighbourhood policy, the experience of the new EU Member States ought to be utilised in encouraging reforms in the Caucasus, Ukraine and Moldova.
The report states, with good reason, that the success of the neighbourhood policy in individual countries is dependent on relations between the European Union and Russia. However, it is difficult to believe that a Russia thinking in terms of the old geopolitical categories will prove a trustworthy ally. In fact, the invitation to achieve the democratisation of Belarus together with Russia seems comical even. It is a well-known fact that with every day that passes the Putin regime is moving further and further away from being a democratic administration and is becoming authoritarian.
Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, the bilateral dialogues between Mr Putin and Mr Schröder, Mr Putin and Mr Blair and Mr Putin and Mr Chirac are unfortunately fulfilling Russia’s desire to negotiate with a fragmented European Union. This is bringing about a retreat from the principles and requirements of the EU neighbourhood policy. Balancing Russia’s and Ukraine’s gas prices in line with Turkmenistan’s so-called cheap gas is a monopolistic provision, and not the action of the market.
I am worried. It is difficult to understand why, at a time when Russia’s economy is growing, the cofinancing share contributed by Russia itself within the framework of the European Union, the Northern Dimension, the Global Partnership and the programmes for decommissioning weapons of mass destruction is not increasing. The report, however, mentions the judicious and effective use of the neighbourhood policy’s resources. It really is worth taking the greatest pains in the development of regional and sub-regional dimensions. It is worth reflecting upon the significance of the geographical, historical and political aspects of Eastern Europe in creating a reliable European Union neighbourhood policy.
Frank Vanhecke (NI). – (NL) Mr President, I do not think it detracts in any way from Mr Tannock’s work when we conclude that this European neighbourhood policy, in fact, represents an enormous missed opportunity for the Commission, namely to ensure, as a matter of priority indeed, that our neighbouring country Turkey is included in that policy, occupying, as it should, first place and a very privileged one at that. It should be clear by now that the majority of our European citizens are categorically opposed to Turkey’s fully-fledged EU accession, and that it would therefore be very undemocratic to simply ignore this emphatic non-approval. I would like to remind you again that Turkey is not a European country, not in a geographical, historical, religious or in any other way. Turkey is a neighbouring country, though, with which we want the best relations and which could have easily played an important, and most prominent, part in the European neighbourhood policy. That is, therefore, a missed opportunity, and a mistake which will sooner or later cost us dearly.
I should like to add one more observation to the report’s considerations about our relations with the Maghreb countries. I regret the omission of one very important aspect, that being the recent statement by the Moroccan Government calling for a re-immigration policy, for a return of a large section of the 2.5 million Moroccans who are currently based in Europe, the young people of whom, as you know, either face 40% unemployment or else end up being looked after by the state in another way. That is an extremely important about-turn on the part of the Moroccan Government, and one that we Europeans should actively support, not least by our neighbourhood policy.
Francisco José Millán Mon (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, links with neighbours are extremely important to both people and countries. Relations with neighbouring countries are also important to the European Union. They must be positive relations framed within the objective of creating a circle of countries around the Union that are peaceful, prosperous, respectful of human rights and stable and that share our principles of democracy and the rule of law. Achieving that circle is necessary to the Union’s interests, as the Commissioner has just acknowledged.
With globalisation and interdependence, it is clear that no wall can isolate the European Union from its closest neighbour countries; hence the importance of an active and generous neighbourhood policy.
As the report by Mr Tannock indicates – and I thank him warmly for his work – I believe that specific neighbourhood policies must be differentiated essentially according to the neighbouring country in question. The difference must not depend on the continent to which the country belongs; if that were the case, we would be giving the impression that we have one first-class neighbourhood policy and another second-class one for the non-European neighbouring Mediterranean countries. That would be a mistake, since many of these Mediterranean countries have very close and long-standing relations with the Union, closer and more long-standing than those that the Union has with several European countries which are also subject to the neighbourhood policy.
In accordance with our commitments, these Mediterranean countries hope to achieve the closest possible relations with the Union. Furthermore, they need greater cooperation from us in order to remedy their backwardness in the fields of institutional democratic development, economic and social growth and so forth.
A closer European neighbourhood policy, however, also involves promoting reforms geared towards democracy, respect for human rights and the market economy. There must also be progress in fields such as economic openness, border control, and cooperation in the fight against terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration. It is clear that progress in these fields will benefit the neighbouring countries in question as well as the whole of the region.
Mr President, I would like to make an additional comment. I very much regret that, at the Barcelona Summit of last November, the level of attendance by our neighbours from the South of the Mediterranean was so disappointing. I believe that they have squandered a perfect opportunity to demonstrate their interest in enhancing their relations with the Union. Despite this disappointment, however, we must look to the future and to the Union’s strategic imperatives. This means that we must prioritise our relations with our neighbours, not just for their benefit, but for our own as well.
Panagiotis Beglitis (PSE). – (EL) Mr President, I too wish for my part to thank Commissioner Ferrero Waldner and to highlight the particularly positive contribution by my honourable friend Mr Tannock to the wording of the final text.
I should like to mention certain matters, on developments in which the implementation of the ambitious objectives of the European Neighbourhood Policy will depend.
Firstly, there can be no reliable European Neighbourhood Policy without a balanced geographical approach. We must do everything we can to prevent the Member States from taking a customer-orientated approach on the basis of their individual national interests.
The basic precondition for the efficacy of the neighbourhood policy is the political will of the Member States to make use of the mechanisms for which provision is made for the protection of human rights and democratic freedoms. The negative experience in this sector from the Barcelona process should make us all wiser.
The neighbourhood policy needs to be combined with the implementation of the European security strategy, especially in the sectors of combating international terrorism, organised crime, energy security and environmental challenges.
The European Neighbourhood Policy should not produce overlaps or create confusion as to the European prospects and the future integration into the European Union of the Balkan countries. Relations with the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation process also need to be defined with greater clarity.
Greater coordination and better cooperation are needed with the international financing organisations for the implementation of action programmes. More reliable financial planning in 2006 is needed for the adoption of the relevant regulation on the new financing mechanism. The European Neighbourhood Policy needs to develop in a process with the participation of the citizens and of third country communities. Regional cooperation and the integration and strengthening of regional customs union also need to be developed and extended.
The crucial international energy situation is such that the European Union needs to harmonise and integrate its energy markets with those of the neighbourhood policy countries.
To close, I wish to emphasise the need for negotiations on the adoption of action programmes with the countries of the South Caucasus to be speeded up, especially negotiations with Georgia. Particular account should be taken of the human rights situation and the situation of the Greek ethnic group in the Tsalka area of Georgia, where there are serious problems with both the human rights and property rights of the Greek community.
Cecilia Malmström (ALDE). – (SV) Mr President, this is a very constructive and important report on one of the most important issues concerning the future of the EU. What kind of relations are we to have with neighbouring countries? How are we to step up cooperation on issues in respect of which we have to cooperate, such as the fight against terrorism, environmental problems, security and energy? How are we to help strengthen democracy and the rule of law in the countries in our vicinity?
My view is that, in the present situation, we should not define Europe’s borders. Those European countries that are able and willing to fulfil all the criteria should be given clear prospects of membership. We have seen what this has meant for the transformation of our new Member States. For them, EU membership has operated as a carrot and stick, and it has been extremely important to their transformation. Membership is also incredibly important to democratisation and the process of reform in the Balkans and Turkey. My view is, therefore, that we should give Ukraine the prospect of membership.
Naturally, the EU cannot expand to just any size, which is why the neighbourhood policy may offer an alternative to membership. In that case, it must, however, offer an attractive alternative. Parliament’s message is clear on this point. We need further to specify and define what we are to do with the policy. What are our priorities to be? Can we resolve the institutional issues that will arise in connection with these countries? Common values and common policy areas are needed. Furthermore, the cooperation agreements must be tailored to individual needs because, as has been pointed out, there are incredible differences from one country to the next.
The focus must be on the issues relating to democracy. The transitional or democracy fund proposed by Mr Tannock is a very good idea. Again, I wish to thank my fellow Member, Mr Tannock, for a very constructive report.
Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, if we want the neighbourhood policy to be a real success, we must have full cooperation from our neighbours. From this point of view, I would like to draw your attention, a few weeks after the Barcelona summit, to the fact that most of the Mediterranean heads of state or government boycotted that summit, even those who are our partners under the neighbourhood policy. I feel it is important for the Commission and the Council to draw their own conclusions from the attitude of the partner countries and to take care not to produce the same results in the context of the neighbourhood policy.
This boycott was in part a demonstration of the disapproval of the partner countries of, firstly, the considerable pressure placed on them by the Commission and the Member States to conclude cooperation agreements on migration policies and on the fight against terrorism and, secondly, the lack of budgetary prospects for the implementation of a true cooperation and development policy. Can we be sure that the European Union has learnt all its lessons from that?
All of the action plans that have so far been negotiated as part of the neighbourhood policy include sections on cooperation in securing the European Union's borders: the fight against terrorism and against illegal immigration. It is unacceptable for the European Union to pursue this policy aiming to make our neighbours take on the role of policing our borders. It is unacceptable because the partner countries do not support it and because the European Parliament has already been very clear in its condemnation of this trend. But were we consulted at any stage of the negotiation of these national action plans?
In order to be successful, the European Union's policy must be reciprocal, in other words it must respond to the interests of both sides. It is also important for the European Union's policy to be consistent. We cannot, for example, ask our neighbours to conclude readmission agreements, while certain Member States do not respect the provisions of the Geneva Convention. Nor can we, on the one hand, encourage them to respect human rights and democratic principles and, on the other, close our eyes to flagrant breaches of those rights and principles committed in the name of the fight against terrorism.
With regard to human rights, the Commission is negotiating the setting up of 'human rights and democracy' subcommittees. These are important forums for evaluating our effectiveness in this regard. I therefore find it regrettable that the European Union is not making of an more effort to set up such subcommittees with certain states, such as Israel, for example.
Irena Belohorská (NI). – (SK) Thank you, Mr Tannock, for an excellent report dealing with the relations of the European Union with its neighbours and the creation of a ring of friends around the European Union. In helping our neighbours we are, in fact, helping ourselves. The ring comprises countries that do not aspire to EU membership but are keen on close cooperation with the EU, as well as other countries that would like to become members but are as yet unable to meet the criteria for becoming candidate countries. It is commendable that association agreements and action plans have been signed with these countries, and that these countries are committed to taking all the necessary steps to participate in the EU’s internal market and are harmonising their legislation with that of the EU.
As we review the implementation of these agreements several years on, it appears that some of the goals were ambitious but not realistic. The EU is offering substantial financial assistance to the countries covered by the neighbourhood policy. It is, however, necessary to oversee compliance with other important provisions of the agreements, dealing with respect for human rights. The violation of these provisions can lead to the suspension or cessation of financial assistance. It seems that these provisions exist only on paper and that the countries in question continue to receive financial assistance in spite of blatant human rights violations. I therefore urge the improvement of compliance monitoring in this field.
Anna Ibrisagic (PPE-DE). – (SV) Mr President, Commissioner, firstly, I want to say that Mr Tannock’s report on the European neighbourhood policy is a document I fully support, and I can only congratulate him on his excellent work. His report shows that he is very familiar with European history and the current lie of the land. It is only those who are knowledgeable about the past who can also respond to the challenges of tomorrow.
The conditions under which he has worked have not, however, always been easy, for the European neighbourhood policy now extends to include, on the one hand, European countries that are entitled to apply for membership and that may become EU Member States and, on the other hand, non-European countries that cannot become EU Member States. In my personal opinion, the neighbourhood policy should only apply to countries that are neighbours of Europe. Countries that are European and that wish to accede to membership should not be regarded as neighbours but as potential EU Member States and should be given clear prospects of joining the EU.
Moreover, the debate on these issues has recently shifted considerably. When we talk about the European neighbourhood policy, we are speaking about a long-term perspective. As for a short-term perspective, there is often no such thing. Does this mean that opinion both within and outside Parliament has changed, or do we lack political courage? A year ago, for example, the view regarding Ukraine was that it had very clear prospects of EU membership and that there was no doubt whatsoever that it belonged to the European family. We all remember the many orange-coloured scarves to be seen in this Assembly in support of Ukraine’s democratisation process. Had the issue of the status of negotiations for Ukrainian membership been discussed at that time, I am quite convinced that there would not have been so many who would have opposed that country’s membership. Today, the situation is different. Certainly, we still tell Ukraine that we wish to see it become an EU Member State, but we emphasise that this will take some time and that it should not be in a hurry.
Turning now to another state, the situation in Belarus resembles that of a dictatorship and is anything other than satisfactory. Its road to possible EU membership will be a long one. In spite of this, I believe that, alongside our calls for democratisation, we should send out clear signals that, when it one day becomes democratic, Belarus too will have its place in the European family. What I am looking for, both in the neighbourhood policy and in the European debate generally, are visions and optimism. Without optimism and clearly expressed desires regarding what we want to bring about and what kind of Europe we want to see in the future, shall we rise to today’s challenges, either.
Ana Maria Gomes (PSE). – (PT) Mr President, I wish to congratulate Mr Tannock on his report on the new European neighbourhood policy, which is set to be one of the EU’s most strategically important instruments, not least from the point of view of global security, as Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, to whom I also wish to pay tribute, pointed out.
There is no point in the Union shutting itself inside a fortress behind its borders to protect itself from such dangers as terrorism, organised crime, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and the trafficking of women and children. No matter how high the walls, there will always be a way around them, Lampedusa, Ceuta and Melilla being dramatic illustrations.
Good neighbourhood means enhanced mutual security for the neighbours concerned. Hence the importance of correctly implementing this new policy, which will enable us to support our neighbours by means of specific programmes with a direct influence on reinforced security – both their security and ours. By helping them to solve their security problems we will also be helping to extend the area of stability around us.
Yet the south-western section of the security ring around Europe that this new policy seeks to build would be breached if Cape Verde were excluded from this instrument. To exclude Cape Verde would be to overlook its strong ties with Europe and its common border with the EU via the Canary Islands. This report needs to provide a solution whereby Cape Verde would be eligible for programmes under the scope of the European neighbourhood policy.
The EU must not let Cape Verde become a weak link in its chain of neighbours. If it is able to enjoy the benefits of programmes within the framework of the European neighbourhood policy, Cape Verde will be able to play an important role in European and worldwide security. The authorities in Cape Verde must be helped to prevent their territory from becoming a platform for organised crime, illegal immigration and terrorism. Accordingly, with my group’s support, I have tabled two amendments, which I hope will be supported by the majority in Parliament.
Jana Bobošíková (NI). – (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that Mr Tannock’s outstanding report on the European neighbourhood policy has been written. It offers practical answers to problems that the EU must solve if it is to appease the anti-globalisation doom-mongers. It is simply not possible with every round of EU enlargement simply to shift the lines of latitude and longitude on the map of Europe and to mark out our territory in the sand; the same sand, incidentally, in which one may always bury one’s head, rather than face the problems of the world around us, including those of the EU’s neighbours. It is precisely this phenomenon, in my view, that the report addresses and attempts to solve. The European neighbourhood policy is about the offer of privileged relations between the EU and its nearest neighbours, supported by financial instruments such as TACIS and MEDA, which are to be replaced by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument in 2007.
On the other hand, however, the EU often seems unaware that it should not claim the right to dictate to neighbouring countries what they should and should not do, on the grounds that it is providing them with financial support, and I am not afraid to say this. We are not talking here about irresponsible or inferior countries and this is something that the Union often forgets, in its sometimes arrogant navel-gazing. The EU must fully respect its neighbours and not attempt to put pressure on them. This is the only way in which we can talk about good neighbourhood policy.
Alojz Peterle (PPE-DE). – (SL) We are talking about one of the core policies of the European Union, and I am pleased to be able to thank Mr Tannock for a very good report, and you, Commissioner, for ambition of the highest order. EU security is vitally dependent on the quality of democracy and economic development among our neighbours. I support the clearly expressed political will that we will not be satisfied with the status quo for pragmatic reasons, but will actively support the development of democracy, respect for human rights and the development of a social market economy on a permanent footing amongst neighbouring countries.
I especially support the appeal to the Commission to establish clear criteria for assessing the political achievements of our neighbours, and I assume that respect of human rights will occupy a key position among these criteria. I must reiterate the exceptional importance of regional cooperation, as well as projects at a local level. Moreover, as part of any action programmes I would also like to see youth cooperation projects, and in particular projects aimed at the development of civil society.
May I close with an expression of strong support for the opinion regarding the OSCE and the Council of Europe. I firmly believe that the European Union can and must achieve more through the OSCE than it has to date, including in regions beyond the borders of our closest neighbours, and I have in mind in particular Central Asia. Thank you for your attention, and I hope that in future we might also strengthen the parliamentary dimension of our cooperation.
Marianne Mikko (PSE). – (ET) Ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased that this very topical report has been completed. After the most recent enlargement, the European Union needs a determined and flexible neighbourhood policy more than ever. The European Commission must very clearly formulate the objectives and priorities of the neighbourhood policy, and the criteria for evaluating its success. The neighbourhood policy as it is presently being implemented is fading away. The countries covered by the policy are slipping into a grey area.
As the leader of the delegation of the European Parliament, I have had to observe this course of events in Moldova. Moldova is a hostage of the Transnistria problem, a fact that we must not neglect. The Transnistria conflict is one of the most significant reasons for the slow rate of economic development in Moldova.
Yet Europe, as is also noted in this report, has not taken full advantage of its strategic partnership with Russia to resolve the conflict. Today Chancellor Schüssel praised his government for its successful intervention in the Russian-Ukrainian gas problem. He was seconded in this praise by Mr Barroso. The fact that Moldova’s analogous problem has received no attention whatsoever, and as a result suffered a gas crisis that lasted for nearly three weeks, shows the inadequacy of the present neighbourhood policy. Ignoring a partner in the neighbourhood policy, ignoring a country in the middle of Europe with a population of four million is not a pattern of behaviour that the European Union should continue to practise.
I support the rapporteur’s call to recognise the aspirations of Ukraine and Moldova regarding accession to the European Union, and I welcome the demand to offer them the possibility of becoming members of the European Union; that is, when all three of the Copenhagen criteria have been fulfilled. The opportunity to obtain membership of the European Union is of the utmost importance for democratisation and economic reforms. That was the very argument that was emphasised in justifying the commencement of accession negotiations with Turkey.
If we can give an opportunity to Turkey, whose population will soon be greater than that of Germany, then why can we not send a clear message to Ukraine, which is half that size, and Moldova, which has a twentieth of the population of Turkey? In that sense the neighbourhood policy report is a generous exception in the European Union. Once again, many thanks to the rapporteur, and thank you for your attention.
Christopher Beazley (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I should like to pay tribute to Commissioner Verheugen for his work in securing the successful enlargement to include the Baltic States. Could Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, in her reply to this debate, clarify an aspect which is somewhat confusing? We talk about our 'neighbourhood policy', but Russia is a new neighbour of the European Union. Is Russia part of the neighbourhood policy or do we have an EU/Russia policy that is distinct?
George Orwell, one of my countrymen, wrote a book called Animal Farm and he used the expression: 'All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.' I hope that the European Union Member State governments do not share that view but rather subscribe to the Common Foreign and Security Policy and to the idea that there will be no bilateral negotiations with any of our neighbours.
An American poet, Robert Frost, talking about neighbourhood, said that: 'Good fences make good neighbours.' I hope that Russia will very soon find itself in a position to be able to ratify the border agreements with Estonia and Latvia. It is very difficult, however strong our view about good relations may be, if not only Member State frontiers but our own EU borders are not recognised by a neighbour. Perhaps the Commissioner might be able to comment on the progress made with President Putin and his colleagues towards agreement on what must be a fairly fundamental issue. We are obviously investing a great deal with our Russian colleagues and friends, but unless they recognise our fences, it is surely very difficult for us to have that mutual sense of confidence and trust.
Two minutes is not a great deal of time to discuss this vitally important subject, but I would refer colleagues to paragraph 1 of Mr Tannock's excellent report, which says that the European Parliament 'declares that the aim of privileged neighbourhood relations with the EU's neighbours includes, as an essential precondition, an active and concrete commitment to common values in the fields of the rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the principles of a transparent social market ...'.
I hope that President Putin may find time to read at least paragraph 1 of Mr Tannock's report.
Ioannis Varvitsiotis (PPE-DE). – (EL) Mr President, I too wish to thank the Commissioner and the rapporteur, Mr Tannock, for their integrated positions. There is no doubt that the European neighbourhood policy is a successful policy.
However, the time has come, I think, for us to consider whether it perhaps needs to acquire an institutional basis. My proposal is specific and refers to the following: all these states which are today taking part in the European neighbourhood policy should form a commonwealth, an improved version of the British Commonwealth. In this way, the European Union would create around it a large zone of peace, freedom and prosperity.
In this regime, in this commonwealth, customs union will be valid for all the countries, but citizens will not be free to relocate to the countries of the European Union or to participate in the Community decision-making institutions or the single currency.
This special relationship will offer economic and other advantages in sectors such as infrastructures, energy, the environment and transport, which will constitute incentives for joining the commonwealth.
The institution of the commonwealth may develop into a valuable reserve solution in the event that the full integration of a country into the European Union encounters serious obstacles. It could also be the way in which the countries on the periphery of Europe will converge more quickly with Europe. It would create a zone of European-orientated countries and would resolve once and for all the dilemma between the constant enlargement and the deepening of the European Union. At the same time, it will deflate in good time many of the problems within Europe and will head off new dilemmas and new polarisations in the Union before they damage its unity. It will unite us and will strengthen us at the same time, without any significant cost and with far less risk.
Józef Pinior (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, this evening’s debate in the House concerns one of the most important challenges facing the European Union. I refer to the development of a Neighbourhood Policy that will enable the area of security, democracy, political freedom and economic development in the contemporary world to be broadened in the immediate vicinity of the European Union.
The European Union has become a global player, always on the basis of its principles such as respect for peace, the quest for compromise, plus the defence of human rights and of a liberal democracy. In particular, it is engaged in an effort to promote democracy in countries in North Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. It should be noted that this policy involves a whole network of reciprocal political, economic, scientific and cultural links.
I should like to draw attention to the human rights aspect of the European neighbourhood policy. Societies struggling against the lack of democracy and respect for human rights in their countries perceive the European Union as a partner and as a guarantor of democratic processes. The European neighbourhood policy should take into account the aspirations of societies in those countries. It should support civil society and assist with visa policies. It should also bring about a genuine opening up of the European Research Area to include countries outside the European Union.
Finally, the European neighbourhood policy should not become an obstacle to European countries hoping to seek membership of the Union in the future.
Libor Rouček (PSE). – (CS) Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, in recent days and weeks there has been much talk about Europe’s energy dependence on outside sources. EU Member States remain largely dependent on supplies of crude oil and natural gas from the countries covered in this report, such as Russia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Azerbaijan, as well as other countries in transition, such as Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia, across which flow these supplies of strategically important raw materials.
In this regard, I should like to turn to one aspect of the neighbourhood policy to which we have yet to pay sufficient attention, namely regional cooperation. I am of the opinion that the neighbourhood policy should not be based solely on the consolidation of bilateral relations, but rather on regional cooperation between these countries on an economic, cultural and political level. If we look, for example, at individual regions such as the Southern Caucasus, we see that such cooperation is either fraught with problems, or does not actually exist at all. And yet the existence of good neighbourly relations, involving regional cooperation between the countries around us, is one of the preconditions for fulfilling the aims of the neighbourhood policy, not least in order to ensure energy supplies to EU countries.
I should therefore like to call on the Commission to place greater emphasis than it has done hitherto on boosting regional cooperation and on solving regional conflicts, when implementing the individual practical stages of the neighbourhood policy.
Jana Hybášková (PPE-DE). – Mr President, Commissioner, I really admire your physical capacity. I address that comment to Mr Tannock too. The last round of EU enlargement dramatically changed the European external dimension. Enlargement took place and we introduced the European neighbourhood policy. Today's ENP makes me think of NATO's Partnership for Peace and enlargement. The Copenhagen European Council set out the criteria for enlargement and ten countries were ultimately admitted. The process lacked concept, planning and project management. Let us not repeat the same mistake.
Point 1: Let us say that enlargement is enlargement. The ENP should be everything but enlargement. Let us speak about the ENP.
Point 2: We also need privileged partnerships. Every power in history has had special relations. The EU needs them as well. A special, new 'A minus' category should be clearly defined. We all know that, for security, energy, economic, trade and even social, cultural and political reasons, there are already countries with which we have and need special relations, yet they will never – in the foreseeable future – become members of the EU. Let us call that system the ENP.
Point 3: The biggest mistake is the current situation: We do not speak about the ENP; we speak about whether or not the Balkans, Ukraine and Turkey – with or without a clear set of criteria – should be eligible for enlargement. Clearly, the ENP must be dissociated from the names of countries, and concepts and criteria should be introduced.
Point 4: Criteria. Geographical criteria should be discussed on the basis of the Treaty. Not all eligible countries have the capacity to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria. We cannot lie to ourselves as regards the full respect of individual human rights, equal economic opportunities, full liberalisation and privatisation. We should concern ourselves with defining the 'A minus' Copenhagen criteria. Only if we are serious and transparent can we upgrade the region.
Point 5: Institutions and our capacity. Four freedoms should be analysed. The free movement of goods is acceptable but the free movement of people should be limited, as should the free movement of capital, but not the free movement of services.
Transparency and accountability are the cornerstone of stability, understanding and the fight against frustration, extremism and radicalism. Let us be open, transparent and logical. We will all be secure and prosperous as a result.
Bernd Posselt (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, I should like to make clear my wholehearted support for Mr Tannock’s outstanding report and also the Commissioner’s excellent, practical neighbourhood policy.
Nevertheless, I cannot and shall never accept certain concepts. What do the ancestors of many western Ukrainians have in common with the ancestors of the Commissioner or myself, of Mrs Hybášková or Mr Rouček, of Mr Peterle or of many others in this room? They were citizens of a Central European state called Austria-Hungary. No one has yet been able to give me a rational explanation as to why some of these citizens should suddenly be Western Europeans and others Eastern Europeans, or why, indeed, some of them – as some people thoughtlessly say – should suddenly be Europeans and others Europe’s neighbours.
The neighbourhood and enlargement policies, like economic policy, need the concept of regulatory policy. The fact is that Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova are unambiguously European countries – as are the South-East European countries that we curiously label ‘Western Balkans’. All of these must ultimately be given the prospect of full membership of the European Union, even if we currently know that, for some, such as Ukraine, Belarus or Moldova, this is a very long way off.
For this reason, the European neighbourhood policy makes perfect sense as a staging post. We must simply distinguish here, however, between those for whom this policy represents the prospect of European membership, on the one hand, and those with whom we wish to have permanent associations as neighbours, such as the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, on the other.
In this regard, I very much liked the remark by Mr Özdemir of the Greens today that we need greater interlinking of the Barcelona process and the Mediterranean countries with the European neighbourhood policy, as our Mediterranean policy will have to be a neighbourhood policy in the classical sense in the long run. That is why, today, we have to come to terms with the concepts and categories as they are currently set out. We should not lose sight of the realities of the situation, however, or a rude awakening is in store, something of which we saw chilling signs this winter in the form of the situation between Russia and Ukraine.
Bogusław Sonik (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, in crisis situations like the one that arose recently when Moscow turned off gas supplies to Ukraine and Moldova, the European neighbourhood policy ought to play a key role and provide a formula for creating a common vision of European Union policy. Gas has become a means of exerting political pressure, so one of the priorities for European neighbourhood policy has to be to participate in a dialogue on energy with third countries, and become involved in the organisation of trans-European energy networks.
The most important reserves of oil and natural gas in the world are located in areas surrounding the European Union. Many of the Union’s neighbours are producer or transit countries. There is therefore considerable scope for action in the context of a policy aimed at the creation of a friendly zone around the Union. Action to date in this regard has proved unsatisfactory. I could mention the political consent to the construction of the northern European gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. Not only is this system detrimental to the interests of Member States, in the longer term it will have a negative impact on countries beyond the European Union’s Eastern border affected by our neighbourhood policy. I refer to countries such as Ukraine, Belarus and to the countries of the Southern Caucasus.
European decision-makers failed to react decisively on this matter. This meant that a strategic decision was taken over the heads of several Member States, with negative repercussions for a number of transit countries. I would be grateful if the Commissioner would comment on the matter and make her views clear.
The European neighbourhood policy must become an effective tool for the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law in countries close to the European Union. It must also encourage change in countries where there is no effective democracy. The activities of democratic movements in neighbouring countries should be supported, by facilitating access to independent media and information. The European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights can play an important role in this regard. In a flexible and effective manner, this instrument ought to be able to support initiatives to promote parliamentary democracy. I would remind the House that this is the only external Union instrument that does not require the consent of the recipient country.
Simon Busuttil (PPE-DE). – (MT) Thank you Mr President, Commissioner, I also wish to join my colleagues and present my compliments to the rapporteur for the good work he has done. This is a comprehensive report on a very vast field. I appreciate therefore that his job has not been easy. If I may criticize the report, I would say that I do not think that the report places countries from Eastern Europe and countries from the southern Mediterranean on the same level. It seems as though the report was written for Eastern countries and then some parts were added about Maghreb and Mashreq. In fact, in paragraph 33 the report even asks the Commission to clarify the definition of the ties between the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. I therefore say this, Commissioner, that if we at the European Parliament are not understanding well how much the European Neighbourhood Policy covers and includes the countries of the Barcelona Process, and if we are not understanding how this policy compliments our Euro-Mediterranean policy, then how can we expect that our partner countries in the Mediterranean would understand it? No wonder that a lot of people coming from Mediterranean countries who speak to me, who are our partners, especially in my capacity as Vice-President of the Maghreb delegation, express their serious concerns about the European neighbourhood policy. Probably, it is because like us, they do not understand the link to the Barcelona process, probably because they are afraid that this will take over the Barcelona process to the detriment of Mediterranean countries, probably because they are afraid that with the new fund, which will be set up next year, the European Partnership Neighbourhood Instrument, will stand to lose instead of gaining anything; probably because the funds will not be ring fenced and so the Mediterranean countries will have no guarantee that they will get what they have already obtained, let alone get even more. These are all points of concern which are raised by our colleagues from countries like Tunisia and Morocco. These are points to which, I hope, the Commissioner will be able to make a reply, because they are serious and legitimate points.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, first of all I should like to greet my colleague Mr Verheugen, who is behind the neighbourhood policy. It is a happy coincidence that he is here today.
Secondly, I should like to repeat that I am very appreciative of the very broad support for the report by Mr Tannock and for the neighbourhood policy. It is indeed a very broad policy and it was therefore a broad discussion. This is a policy directed towards the EU’s neighbours in the East, but also towards its neighbours in the Mediterranean. I will come to that in a moment.
On the European perspective, it is clear that the neighbourhood policy is one that is distinct from enlargement, but at the same time I should also say that the future is not set in stone. At this stage we have a policy totally distinct from enlargement. I could not be clearer in distinguishing and defining that policy.
There is also a regional perspective. This is very clear, for instance, in the Mediterranean process, Euromed. It is regional and the neighbourhood policy is the bilateral, complementary part of it, so the two work together. For instance, we have always very strongly supported the south-south Agadir Cooperation between the countries.
Naturally, with regard to the East, that aspect can still be broadened. There is still a lot to be done. However, I can also tell you that during the energy crisis the regional dimension was also apparent. We have also very much enhanced, helped and encouraged Ukraine to help Moldova in the very times it has experienced recently.
In the energy field as a whole we are trying to work towards an integrated energy market. In the Mashreq there is an integrated gas market. There is also the cooperation between Palestine and Israel, which is at least aimed at more effective integration.
Let me answer a few specific questions. Many have been asked here. First, the inclusion of the southern Caucasus countries in the neighbourhood policy – something originally demanded by the European Parliament – is very welcome. The report suggests fully utilising the ENP to promote inter-state confidence building. That is very important. It is crucial for the southern Caucasus countries to create stability. I agree with everyone who has said that we have to promote and reinforce the currently-frozen conflict solution in those countries. That is what we are trying to do.
The development of the ENP, as regards the southern Caucasus, remains a high priority. You all know that technical missions have been going to those countries in order to negotiate the action plans, notably because we also want to contribute to regional stability and reinforce EU support for resolving the conflicts there. We know that this will take time, but it is highly important that we are fully engaged in it.
Another question referred to Belarus. To date the Commission has been represented through its delegation in Kiev, which is accredited to Belarus. I have requested, as a first stage, that a regionalised delegation mission be established in Belarus, headed by a chargé d’affaires under the head of mission of Kiev. I am still awaiting a positive reply from the Belarusian authorities. However, my understanding is that if we have a delegation there then we can work much more closely with the government in Minsk and try to reinforce our own criteria.
Many of you will know that our assistance to Belarus is characterised by a two-track approach. There is also a strategy for more democratisation and human rights to meet the needs of the population at large, and a decentralised programme. That means new funding for support to democratisation, which is available under the EIDHR and direct work, for instance as regards the radio station and the possibility of directly influencing information through our independent broadcasting to Belarus. That is already under way. But we are also working for higher education and for training, if you bear in mind the closure of the university in Minsk and our work in Vilnius.
The whole question of the Transnistrian conflict has been mentioned. In line with the commitment in the action plan, we have taken a much higher profile in supporting the mediation process. Since October 2005 we have tried to work, together with the US, as observers. We now have a special representative for Moldova, Ambassador Jacobovits de Szeged, who is working for a solution to the Transnistrian conflict. In this connection we set up the Moldovan-EU border assistance mission on 1 December. It is designed to assist Moldova and Ukraine in ensuring transparent management of their common border, thus stepping up cooperation on border issues and trying to combat corruption and the misleading of customs.
I disagree with those who say that the Barcelona Summit was a failure. I really regret the media reports about Barcelona. I was there from the very beginning until the very end. I can tell you that Barcelona was excellent in its substance. There is a report on migration. Please read it. There is a common position on combating terrorism. There is the substance that the Commission, in our communication, brought forward in April. One should look at why various heads of state did not attend. For instance, it may have been somewhat difficult for the King of Morocco to go to Spain because of the differences they still have. King Abdullah II of Jordan had to change his government. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria was in a hospital in Paris and still is, as far as I know. President Mubarak had just had elections in Egypt and was not in the best of conditions to go to Barcelona. However, many prime ministers attended and it is they who have to implement policy.
Twinning and TAIEX, the two excellent instruments that have helped the enlargement countries a great deal, are also there for the neighbourhood countries, and we will use them.
There were many other questions, but I cannot go into more detail now owing to time constraints. However, if those questions are raised again in the Committee on Foreign Affairs then I would be pleased to answer them.
Christopher Beazley (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I rise on a point of order, the number of which will be familiar to your aides, about supplementary questions following a debate.
The Commissioner was not able to answer the question as to whether or not the EU/Russia policy and the neighbourhood policy are allied. I would refer the Commissioner to paragraphs 16 and 26 of the Tannock Report. Perhaps she might give me a written reply.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I am very happy to answer that. I just thought that the debate was going on for too long.
Russia is not in the normal ENP. We have a special financial instrument – ENPI – the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument. Why? Because Russia is a huge country and feels it deserves a special strategic partnership. We have worked with Russia on the four common spaces, and for every summit we go through the agenda and the different questions, such as the one you mentioned on the border agreement with Estonia and Latvia. Other questions, such as on gas and energy, will certainly be important points. Those are bilateral issues of the countries with Russia. We have tried to facilitate those negotiations, but we have heard that for the time being those parties prefer to work on the issue themselves.
I see at least some sort of progress, but I am cautious because it will take time.
I did not forget to answer your question, but the debate was very long and there were so many interventions, all of them very valuable.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Thursday, 19 January 2006 at 12 noon.
Written statement (Rule 142)
José Ribeiro e Castro (PPE-DE). – (PT) Neighbourhood policy needs to be a more open concept, not restricted merely to Mediterranean issues or to the EU’s eastern border.
We must not forget that we have other neighbours on our Atlantic maritime borders. In light of their importance and their particular sensitivity in terms of European security, they also deserve special prominence in this context.
Adjoining the outermost regions of the EU, adjacent to the European mainland, these insular countries are especially vulnerable to large-scale trafficking. This is dangerous for the countries themselves and in turn for our security and we must accordingly pay careful attention to these countries.
There are those who say that Cape Verde already has its own framework in the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) area. This is a blinkered view that does not take account of the reality of the situation. We must be able to define policies that interact with other frameworks, such as, inter alia, the ACP, in a manner that is fruitful, flexible and imaginative.
We are duty bound to do this, and, in light of its people’s exemplary record on democracy, good governance and respect for human rights, not to mention their profound historical, social, political, cultural and geographical ties with the EU, Cape Verde deserves this.
I therefore call on Members to vote in favour of Amendments 11, 12, 36 and 38.