President. – The next item is the report by Mário David and Marek Siwiec, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (2011/2157(INI)) (A7-0400/2011).
Mário David, rapporteur. – (PT) Mr President, our first report on the revision of the European Neighbourhood Policy has already clearly laid out the positions that Parliament is on course to take. It was with great satisfaction that we saw most of the principles and proposals that we have advocated in this House included in subsequent Commission and Council communications. I am grateful, moreover, for the excellent and constant collaboration and coordination that we have maintained throughout this time with Baroness Ashton and with Mr Füle and their offices.
Firstly, we have seen the stepping up of our relations with neighbouring peoples. By prioritising relations with the general population and with civil society organisations in particular, we will give a greater objectivity and a greater effectiveness to our neighbourhood policy, which claims to be exclusively founded on the universal values that we advocate and share.
I would stress, however, that the EU does not intend to impose a predefined model or formula for political reform in third countries. However, when our taxpayers’ money is at stake, we must give more to those who are making better progress in realising the values in which we believe. This principle means that the faster a country progresses in its internal reforms, the more support it will get from the EU. The principle of ‘more for more’ is, as such, correct, fair and coherent. This means, obviously, that we anticipate having cases or countries where we will have ‘less for less’.
The neighbourhood policy is now based on defending the pursuit of common values and the commitment to democracy, human rights, rule of law and good governance. However, this quest involves a greater accountability. Our partners are called upon to have greater responsibility in the process, and so we advocate the principles of greater differentiation, greater conditionality and ‘more for more’.
In taking a position of rapprochement towards our partners from the bottom up and with tailor-made policies, we are making the development and institutional capacity more effective, along with the ‘institutional building’ that we so wish to support, and which constitutes the basis of the rule of law and the democratic process, that we wish to see implemented as quickly as possible in neighbouring societies, economies and communities.
The idea is to give a voice to citizens as well as to civil society movements that share our values, supporting organised movements that strive to effect positive and democratic change in our countries, improving rights for women and children, building and deepening principles of freedom, whether they be of expression, association, religious belief, the press, choice, etc. with fair elections, the fight against corruption, a rule of law, greater social justice, respect for minorities, protection of the environment and efficiency of resources.
The serious social and economic problems that our neighbours have to face must be the focus for immediate action. It is clear that, without our firm support, the democratic processes under way could fail. These are the ideas that we always uphold for the European political future of good neighbourliness. These are the proposals that make up the report which we present to you for voting.
Now is the time for action. For our part, we will continue to pay close attention and exercise the new powers of monitoring and control that are now with Parliament. To finish, I would like to thank my colleague, co-rapporteur and friend, Mr Siwiec, to whom I would like to express my special thanks for his remarkable work on the eastern aspect of this neighbourhood policy. I would also like to thank the shadow rapporteurs and all of you for your many suggestions proposing amendments that were put forward and that I believe have enriched our work. Lastly, a final word for the secretariat of the Committee and the policy advisers for their excellent support work, from which I have greatly benefited.
Marek Siwiec, rapporteur. – (PL) Mr President, today marks a very joyful day for all those who, for the entire year, have been reflecting on how Europe should shape its relations with its close neighbours. This report, which has been prepared during an unusual year, is now ready. The past year has been one in which a single great slogan has resounded throughout the world: change, change, change. People have clamoured for democracy, for a better life, for values that are so close to the heart of the European Union.
The European Neighbourhood Policy was once designed as a kind of consolation prize for those countries which lay close to the European Union, but which would never be part of it. These included both countries which are nearby, for example, on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as countries in the East, which once formed part of the Soviet empire. Meanwhile, everything has changed. First of all, the attitude of the people living in these countries has changed, and so too has the position of the European Union towards these countries. We now realise that a policy of empty gestures, of hypocrisy, of maintaining relations with regimes whose stable governance turned out to be illusory, simply does not make sense. Investment in fiction and investment in dictatorships has turned out to be entirely pointless. This year, we heard the powerful voice of the people of North Africa who are demanding freedom and democracy, and who want to fight for core values. A few years ago, the same voice was heard from Kiev’s Maidan Square. At Maidan Square, millions of Ukrainians came out in force to demand the same as the people in Africa are demanding today. What, therefore, is the nature of this new neighbourhood policy developed by the European Commission? Here, I would like to express my enormous respect for the work of Commissioner Füle, who has taken the place reserved for the Commission. First and foremost, the neighbourhood policy means applying an integrated policy in relations with the East and with North Africa. Why a so-called integrated policy? When it comes to freedom, democracy and tolerance, there are no geographical divisions. People are, as we firmly believe, all equal. They all wish to live with dignity, be it in Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Tunisia or Egypt. This new policy is based on values close to our hearts, on the fight for democracy and freedom. It gives an opportunity to the people who want to fight for these values. In some cases, this struggle will be protracted. This is a new, people-oriented policy. Our desire is to create the foundation for this new policy, for these new relations. First of all, we want to achieve this by convincing societies that we wish to create opportunities for their people, through contacts with non-governmental organisations, leaders and the media. We want them to be convinced, and to convince those closest to them, that it is worth looking in the direction of Europe, and to the European Union as an institution which supports these values.
We assume that the speed of change will be determined by the countries themselves. We explain that the notion of ‘benchmarks’ amounts to doing as much as you want to do with our assistance. The ‘more for more’ rule, as Mário David has rightly said, also means ‘less for less’. You can take from one to give to another. Therefore, today marks a great celebration. All that is important to us, to the European Union, to the countries that gained freedom, is now on offer to those who live near us. We can complain and say that much still needs to be done both in the East and in North Africa, that we are dissatisfied with the situation in Azerbaijan, in Armenia. We can improve our policies in Georgia and Ukraine, we can talk about Moldova’s progress and point out that there is much yet to be done in Egypt and Tunisia. It is important, however, for us to ensure that matters proceed in the right direction.
Mário, thank you for your cooperation over this report that we have written together. I would also like to thank the Commissioner who articulated such important matters in his communication. Finally, I would like to thank all those who helped us put these wise thoughts into words.
Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I am very grateful to Mr David and Mr Siwiec for their excellent report on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Since I came in front of the Committee on Foreign Affairs last May to present the new approach to the European Neighbourhood Policy, both Baroness Ashton and I have been determined to deliver on the commitments that we have taken. While I am fully aware that much remains to be done, let me give you a few highlights of what has been achieved so far.
In line with the principles of mutual accountability and a shared commitment to universal values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, we have developed a new approach in which our interests and values converge more, investing in democracy. This explains why, for example, we have doubled our financial support to Tunisia this year, a country that has organised truly democratic elections and has made tangible progress in the areas of freedoms of expression and association.
At the same time, we have taken even tighter sanctions against the regimes of Gaddafi in Libya, Lukashenko in Belarus, and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, while simultaneously working to intensify our cooperation with civil society. With these two latter countries, it is no longer business as usual. We have been working hard to deliver on extra European Union incentives that, to quote your report, ‘should be given to the neighbourhood countries to engage in the common goal of building deep democracy’.
On money, we have overhauled our financial assistance to make our financial incentives more effective. We have set up a new spring programme of EUR 350 million for the southern partners and will create a similar one for our Eastern partners. The funding of the European Investment Bank was increased by EUR 1 billion, and EBRD eligibility was extended to the southern neighbourhood. The Commission has already provided EUR 20 million to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to ensure that it can swiftly start its operation in support of the private sector.
Looking ahead, it will be important to secure adequate funding for our neighbourhood policy under the next financial framework. Last week, the Commission has approved a 23% increase. I hope that the European Parliament will support this ambitious approach.
As for access to markets, the Commission has asked the Council for a mandate to negotiate agreements on deep and comprehensive free-trade areas with Morocco, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia. In the East, we have made progress on the DCFTA with Ukraine and have also decided to launch negotiations on DCFTAs with Georgia and Moldova.
As for mobility, we have already launched comprehensive dialogues on migration, mobility and security with Tunisia and Morocco, which aim at preparing mobility partnerships, including agreements on repatriation of irregular migrants, but also on facilitation of visas for legitimate travel. After those already concluded with Georgia and Moldova, a new mobility partnership was concluded with Armenia on 27 October 2011. Of course, the extra incentives will be given as a matter of priority only to those countries that are firmly committed to the process of transformation and political reforms. This is to fully respect the principle ‘more for more’, which is at the heart of the new European Neighbourhood Policy approach.
The renewed ENP is not only a partnership with governments; it is also a partnership with societies. The new Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility was launched in November with a EUR 22 million budget for this year. Unlike other existing instruments, this facility aims at empowering civil society to participate more actively in the reforms. We are advancing in the preparation of the European endowment for democracy. In addition, we have stepped up our engagement with civil society organisations in Belarus and Syria, as they can best support the necessary reforms and political change in those countries. The path of reform will be bumpy and difficult. This is why we need to be persistent in our support to our partners. Implementation of the new ENP approach needs to remain at the top of our political agenda.
This is not only because historic events are taking place on our doorstep. It is because our destinies are linked, and our security depends so much on what happens in these countries. I count on your continued support in this endeavour.
IN THE CHAIR: RODI KRATSA-TSAGAROPOULOU Vice-President
Michèle Striffler, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Development. – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, the European Union has a constitutional obligation, enshrined in Article 208 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to take into account the development cooperation goals, namely the fight against poverty, in implementing the European Neighbourhood Policy. Funding for the European Neighbourhood Policy must be maintained, despite the current crisis, but under no circumstances should the Union’s budgets earmarked for development aid be reallocated to fund this policy.
What is more, migration relations between the EU and neighbouring countries are not solely a matter of the EU’s security priorities. Attention must also be paid, in future policies, to human rights protection for migrants and refugees.
Lastly, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Commission must do their utmost to give the EU’s presence and action in the Middle East a political weight which matches its decisive commitment to humanitarian aid and development aid.
Göran Färm, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. – (SV) Madam President, the Committee on Budgets emphasises a few points in its opinion. Firstly, we need to learn from our past mistakes and, particularly in North Africa, create a more unified role for the European Union, where we can avoid old European colonial powers preferentially safeguarding their own national interests.
Secondly, this means that we must focus more on civil society, democracy and good governance in order to create an open, democratic and non-corrupt social system. Thirdly, we need to find an effective and transparent support model in which we avoid creating instruments that overlap with those we already have. Even though we strongly support the specific aim of the new endowment for democracy that the Commissioner mentioned, we have a few question marks when it comes to the structure.
Fourthly, there will obviously be a strong focus now on our neighbours in the South, but we must not jeopardise a reasonable balance in relation to the support for our Eastern neighbours who want to keep their EU perspective alive. It is important that we do not let them down in this respect.
Sylvana Rapti, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. – (EL) Madam President, we in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs focused more in the opinion which I prepared on the countries of North Africa, bearing in mind that, if we get on well with our neighbours and take care of them, it is as if we are taking care of our own home and our own family. We highlight the economic, social and education reforms on which we need to focus in order to help these communities. We also highlight the fact that the social partners need to step up their action. Finally, illegal immigration needs to be controlled and we need to prevent a ‘brain drain’. We also need to correlate and link the financial aid given by the European Union with whether or not these countries respect our positions on employment regulations.
To close, I should like to propose an observatory. A few days after I drafted my opinion, the European Training Foundation met in Rome and it was common ground that an observatory would be a very helpful instrument in connection with what is happening and how we can help North Africa.
Bogdan Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. – (PL) Madam President, strengthening the regional dimensions of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is one of the European Union’s priorities in the coming years. Further strengthening of both of the regional dimensions of the ENP, namely the southern dimension and the eastern dimension, should constitute an integral part of the central policy itself and should proceed while maintaining a proper balance between the two dimensions. The adoption of the Euro-Mediterranean strategy for energy efficiency, the promotion of Euro-Mediterranean interconnections in the electricity, gas and crude oil sectors, the development of a low-emission economy, effective waste management and nuclear safety are further elements of an intensified dialogue for the increased security of energy supply.
The European Union should undoubtedly engage in building closer cooperation in the field of research, development and education in order to create a common area of knowledge and innovation. The European Commission’s decision to allocate additional funding to the European Neighbourhood Policy seems fully justified. This support should be given to meet the needs of reform leaders and should be conditional on tangible progress and ambitions to move closer towards the European Union.
Lena Kolarska-Bobińska, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – (PL) Madam President, the situation in countries neighbouring the European Union is changing, and is changing dramatically. Our policies should therefore also be amended in line with those changes; they need to evolve. New governments and new structures are being established in North Africa. East of the European Union, unfavourable changes are taking place. There, democracy is dying or has never existed. The Belarusian authorities have no respect for human rights, while in Ukraine, these values are being neglected.
Consequently, the European Union has to change its point of view. We need to increase cooperation at regional level. Local authorities have a better understanding of how the programmes of the European Union should be used for the benefit of its citizens. This is why we should strengthen cross-border cooperation and make full provision for the border regions in our regional development and neighbourhood policies. Union funds should be moved from central national budgets to regional programmes. In this way, they will not be held hostage to national policies, which do not always work and often do not develop as we would wish.
Hélène Flautre, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. – (FR) Madam President, in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), we focused instead on communications regarding the new partnership for mobility, for two reasons: because of the aspirations expressed, aspirations to rights, including, it would appear, the right to mobility, and also because, to date, our migration policy with these countries clearly rested in the iron fists of dictators who, I am glad to say, are no longer in place.
We therefore take a very positive view of the partnership for mobility but would like to question the link still established between the readmission agreements, legal migration and the fight against illegal immigration, relying solely on the report prepared by the Commission itself on readmission agreements. The report says that implementation is inconsistent and not transparent, that the negotiating mandate is unrealistic, that there are serious risks of human right violations and that even this assessment acknowledges that visa liberalisation has no impact on illegal immigration.
I therefore think that a little further reflection is needed and then, above all, we need to develop an approach with these countries that is fully rooted in the mutual benefits of mobility, establishing a structured dialogue. And when we talk about partnership with civil society, this means both mobility and other issues, it is critical that this partnership with civil society, which is the key to success, includes a concrete mechanism for consulting civil society at all stages, early on during the implementation and evaluation.
Hannes Swoboda, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (DE) Madam President, I would first of all like to thank the rapporteurs, Mr David and Mr Siwiec, for the excellent work they have done and, above all, for the excellent cooperation in the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
We have two different neighbouring regions, one to the east and one to the south. Naturally, there are certain fundamental principles we hold in common. The most significant of our shared neighbours to the east is Russia. This can sometimes make life difficult. I believe, however, that the European Neighbourhood Policy should act as a signal to Russia that we intend to recognise our neighbours as independent countries. They are our partners and must make decisions for themselves, including, for example, in relation to Ukraine’s association agreements. Nonetheless, as I have said, we certainly want to see them as friends, and we also want them to enjoy friendly relations with Russia. We must, however, fully recognise the independence of our neighbours. Naturally, we also want the closest possible relations with these neighbouring countries.
As Commissioner Füle has already clearly stated with regard to our southern neighbourhood, it is very important for us that we should not simply take one or other election result we do not like as a reason to abandon these relationships to some degree, or to place them on the back burner. When we hear of election results that alarm us, because they seem to strengthen Islamist or fundamentalist forces, this makes it all the more important to enter into dialogue with the countries in question, with their people and, of course, with their governments. That is the message from our two rapporteurs.
Let us allow our neighbours a genuine opportunity for true partnership. This is an offer from the European Union that they really should accept.
Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Madam President, I would like to start by thanking the two rapporteurs for this excellent report and thanking Commissioner Füle for his comments.
It seems that we are at what I would call an awkward juncture in the history and the development of the European Union. We are personally, as far as the Union is concerned, clearly in a very difficult situation, and in a situation which is such that some of our Member States, or most of our Member States, might be less inclined to show generosity and comprehension vis-à-vis neighbouring Member States which are at various stages of development towards being democracies functioning according to our rules.
I am personally slightly distressed when I learn that several Member States are, for instance, very reluctant to open their market to agricultural products coming from some of our southern neighbours.
At the same time, these same governments, same populations, are extremely demanding when it comes to the democratic criteria that those societies should be fulfilling. But that is very difficult. When you cannot develop your economy because you cannot export the products you are best at producing for the time being, it is very difficult to build development.
I would like to conclude by saying that I agree very much with what our colleague, Mr Swoboda, said. We are the ones who insisted on elections. We are the ones who insisted on having elections soon. The people have not always voted the way we would have preferred, but it is now going to be our business to engage both with the new executives and with the civil societies within all of our neighbouring countries.
Werner Schulz, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Mr Füle, improving human rights is part of the ‘more for more’ principle. That is why I am pleased that in future, the results of human rights consultations are to be included in the annual progress reports of the individual countries.
We have just had the debate about the situation in Syria. For this reason, I wish to state quite categorically: we must learn from the mistakes we have made in dealing with the Arab despots. As we look to the East, this means: no poor compromises with Lukashenko and no shady deals with Yanukovych. We cannot countenance a new agreement while the opposition still languishes in prison.
Mr Siwiec has referred to the need to strengthen civil society. We should not let this simply become a statement of good intentions. The Civil Society Forum of the Eastern Partnership is an important component of the neighbourhood programme. A good start has been made, as recently witnessed at the meeting in Poznań. That is why it is important that we should support existing approaches at this point and call for coordination with the EU through a dedicated secretariat.
Paweł Robert Kowal, on behalf of the ECR Group. – (PL) Madam President, very often when we talked about our neighbours, we used the term ‘stabilisation’. Today, we should feel ashamed of having talked about ‘stabilisation’, because we often did so out of concern for our own comfort zone, to feel good about ourselves. Frequently, the term ‘stabilisation’ was not accompanied by any real will to conduct a dialogue with our neighbours – the neighbours of the European Union. It is excellent that the concept of ‘stabilisation’ does not feature in the Siwiec and David report. It is also excellent that Commissioner Füle, who is listening to us, does not use the term ‘stabilisation’. We should be talking about integration. Integration does not always mean fast accession to the European Union. For many countries, this is certainly not possible.
I would like to talk now about our neighbours to the east. There, we really must talk about a reunification with Europe, about integration, knowing that this is a very difficult and long road. We must be realistic, but we must forget about stabilisation, because stabilisation, in our European Union language, often meant supporting regimes, and we should be honest with ourselves about this. So, on the one hand, I am glad that there is more money for neighbourhood policy in the new budget, but I would like to ask the Commissioner, and anybody else involved, to allocate money to the EFD (European Fund for Democracy), which is the fruit of the Polish Presidency, and to make sure that this money will be forthcoming. This is a specific instrument which shows that we want integration, particularly with the younger generation. This is why we should be talking about a new breath of life as regards the Eastern Partnership, about some great initiative – maybe the University of the Eastern Partnership? We must achieve this. We must send signals today that despite internal problems, despite the crisis in the Union, we have something new to offer. This is what our neighbours need today, and especially the younger generation. If we fail to do this now, there will surely come a moment when we need their support for some issue or other, and they will then remember that we rejected them in difficult times.
Willy Meyer, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, I would also like to thank the rapporteurs for their work. My parliamentary group tabled a large number of amendments. Not all of them were accepted, although we acknowledge that the document is much better than when it was first drafted.
As you know, Mr Füle, our position on the neighbourhood policy is very critical, because the Arab Spring revealed it for what it was. The neighbourhood policy made the European Union a necessary collaborator with Ben Ali and Mubarak. We were not there and nobody expected us; it all happened without the European Union.
We think that, on the issue of the neighbourhood policy, we should clear up once and for all whether compliance will ever be required with Article 2 of the association agreement, one of the neighbourhood policy instruments, which makes the agreement conditional on strict respect for human rights, and whether any association agreement will ever be frozen if a regime fails to comply with it.
So far, this has never happened. We have gone through the experience of the Arab Spring, and right now we have a problem with some states, such as Morocco and Israel, with which we have association agreements. Morocco, which has an advanced statute, held elections with a voter participation rate of only 23% – just 23% – according to official figures. Morocco is unlawfully occupying part of the territory of Western Sahara. Will Article 2 be applied at some point? Are we ever going to use it, Mr Füle?
Nikolaos Salavrakos, on behalf of the EFD Group. – (EL) Madam President, I welcome the effort being made via this report and via the Commission’s proposals expounded by Mr Füle to reward partners, depending on the progress they make, especially those that introduce democratic reforms based on the ‘more for more’ approach. Another important element is the effort to strengthen cooperation with civil society. The Council quite rightly adopted the proposal to establish the European Foundation for Democracy to assist political parties and trade associations. I welcome the decision to approve an additional 23% funding, along with the expansion of the European Bank into the regions, and I consider that the success of the European Neighbourhood Policy will create conditions that encourage the inhabitants of these regions to remain in their states and will have an significant impact in helping to reduce immigration, both legal and illegal. As regards financing the neighbourhood policy from the neighbourhood and partnership instrument, I am in favour of a 1/3 and 2/3 split.
Csanád Szegedi (NI). – (HU) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, a few speeches here made me feel as if we were not living in the same Europe when it comes to the European Neighbourhood Policy. This is because what they often seemed to imply is that some Members put the problems of the European Union’s neighbours ahead of the problems of the EU itself. Every one of us acknowledged that the processes of the Arab Spring are welcome and forward-looking. We all wish for the strengthening and development of democratic institutions in neighbouring countries. However, Commissioner Füle, if I heard you correctly, you said that we were spending EUR 350 million on the new spring programme for instance. And all this while Europe is in trouble!
Just think how many jobs could have been created from all that money, how many plants and processing facilities could have been built in Europe to serve the interests of the European people. Europe does need to protect its borders and Europe does need to protect its markets.
Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE). – (RO) Madam President, the European Union has increased the amount of money allocated to its Eastern Neighbourhood Policy by EUR 1.24 billion. This gives us now roughly EUR 7 billion. This money must be spent fairly and must deliver concrete, visible results. As head of the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Cooperation Committee Delegation, I wish to tell you that the ‘more for more’ principle, meaning ‘more money for more reform’, is fair and crucial too. The effort, outcome and merits matter, which also applies to the Republic of Moldova.
At the recent Congress of the Democratic Liberal Party which was held last Sunday, Prime Minister Filat reaffirmed the decision to remain faithful to the European integration project, while also declaring that he would never form an alliance with the Communists.
Moldova has a European perspective in keeping with Article 49 of the Treaty, as has also been recorded by Parliament in its resolutions on Moldova. At present, Moldova needs political stability in order to consolidate democracy and rights and to implement the reforms. Breaking away from communism is a complex and difficult process. We must support those who have set off down this path of transition, from the dictatorship and lies of communism to democracy, the rule of law and prosperity.
Kristian Vigenin (S&D). – (BG) Madam President, Mr Füle, we are completing today and tomorrow an important phase in our work this year. We must thank you, Baroness Ashton and your teams for your extremely active efforts throughout the year and for managing to present a reviewed neighbourhood policy which provides a much more effective response to the challenges which we have faced this year.
We must also thank Mário David and Marek Siwiec for the great efforts they have made throughout the year in ensuring that Parliament reached an overall position which will help us present our view to our voters as well. I believe that they expected us to be active and present our ideas for developing relations with our neighbours both to the east and to the south.
Incidentally, Parliament also made its contribution to expanding multinational cooperation at parliamentary level by creating the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. I believe that relations with our neighbours will evolve in a positive manner, even though there will also be setbacks, which is inevitable. I still hope that an association agreement will be reached with Ukraine. I believe that fair and democratic elections will be held next year in Armenia, while Georgia will not allow any setback to occur.
We must focus particular attention on relations with our southern neighbours. The fact that the parties coming to power are strongly influenced by the predominant religion in these countries is not a problem in itself. The problem will arise if we start to make compromises with them only because they have been elected democratically.
A very clear response is given on this in the reviewed neighbourhood policy: we must stick to the principles on which our Union is built and on which our relations with these countries must be built.
Charles Tannock (ECR). – Madam President, the European neighbour policy nobly aims to promote in our nearest neighbours democracy, human rights and prosperity. The idea is more for more, that is to say, the closer they get to us, the more aid, trade and political concessions they get from the European Union.
Our neighbourhood has experienced a tumultuous year. There have been widespread popular protests across the Mediterranean southern shores brought about by the fall of despotic regimes, and to the east continuing tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, and Georgia with Russia, and a clear deterioration in the democratic values in Ukraine, with the arrest of the leading opposition figures.
The recent victories for Islamist parties in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco beg the question of whether the Arab Spring will shortly become the Arab Winter, as hopes for multiparty, pluralist free market democracies fade in the Middle East and North African countries. For now, we must carry on giving financial and technical support to all these countries to stabilise them and prevent civil unrest and mass migratory movements in our direction. Clearly, though, if the European Union sees a theocracy emerge in a large country like Egypt, all bets must be off.
Francisco José Millán Mon (PPE). – (ES) Madam President, our ‘southern’ neighbourhood is going through a new phase in its history, from which there is no way back. The European Union must support these processes of democratic change, drastically altering its former complacency, which gave the impression of aiming for stability but was nothing more than inertia.
As Article 8 of the Treaty of Lisbon states, our neighbourhood policy should be based on universal values such as human dignity, human rights, democracy and the rule of law, as well as having conditions and specific requirements, since not all processes are the same. There should be country-specific procedures in each case.
In any event, we must embark upon dialogue with new political groups, including moderate Islamist forces, based on the values mentioned previously. We should strengthen our relations with these countries, their political and social forces and their civil societies. This is a job for the EU institutions and also for European political and social groups.
Aside from the political support, we must provide economic and financial aid to these countries. Commercial opening should be gradual. It should be mutually beneficial and include the services sector, as called for by the report. We should also prioritise the administrative and institutional development of several of our neighbours to the south and help them in the fight against corruption and organised crime. I would also like to see the Union for the Mediterranean find sufficient resources to put some of the identified projects into action.
These issues and many more, Madam President – and I am finishing now – are covered in the extensive report written by my brilliant colleague, Mário David, which we will be voting on tomorrow. I am sure, Mr Füle, that you and the Commission services will find it a very useful read.
Ana Gomes (S&D). – (PT) Madam President, I am voting for the new approach that Commissioner Füle has sought to bring to the European Neighbourhood Policy, and I would like to congratulate my colleagues, Mr David and Mr Siwiec, for the excellent recommendations in their report, which strengthen the focus of the European Neighbourhood Policy on the relationship between peoples, rather than the relationship between governments. That is the only way for the European Union to be consistent and effective in promoting human rights, democracy and, ultimately, in ensuring development and stability in its neighbouring areas, whether to the east or the south.
This clearly means that there needs to be conditionality, as the rapporteurs have pointed out. This should be smart conditionality which is intelligently applied, putting pressure on governments and encouraging the behaviour that we want, but which, above all, gives greater power to the people, instead of sacrificing more of it. Parliament cannot fail to evaluate this conditionality, and it is bound to have a bearing on the issues of human rights, democracy, the rule of law, good governance and combating corruption as elements in its evaluation.
There can be no neighbourhood policy that represents a partnership with society unless women’s empowerment is put at the centre of this policy. This is equally valid in both the east and the south. The EU cannot fail to give them visibility due to the role that they have played in the revolutions in the Arab world.
Tomasz Piotr Poręba (ECR). – (PL) Madam President, cooperation in the field of the European Union’s neighbourhood policy currently includes two principal areas: the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership countries. I would like to focus on the second area, which has been somewhat sidelined following recent events in North Africa.
Regarding the report discussed today, we should praise, first and foremost, its emphasis on the importance of maintaining a reasonable balance between East and South. This is important because the Eastern Partnership countries have real prospects of joining the European Union and are in the process of implementing programmes and reforms which form part of the association agreements currently being negotiated.
A good solution has also been proposed by the External Action Service and the European Commission – the ‘more for more’ mechanism, which – provided it is carefully used – will become an important additional incentive encouraging our partners to make further changes and harmonise their legal systems to European standards. This also encompasses the issue of human rights and fundamental freedoms. In addition, it is worth underlining the impact of EPS on regional development, since strengthening the Eastern Partnership will be crucial to the development of the EU’s border regions.
Tokia Saïfi (PPE). – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, I should like to begin by thanking my two colleagues for their report. Their work, carried out in close collaboration with all the committees consulted, is an excellent summary of the guidelines that we want to set out for this new European Neighbourhood Policy.
I would just like to say a word, first, on the implementation of the new ‘more for more’ approach. Last week’s announcement that there is to be a 40% increase in the budget for the European Neighbourhood Instrument is very positive, especially since, according to this new approach, it will be distributed to satisfy both the needs and efforts of recipient countries. Naturally, good students should be rewarded more than those who are less diligent, but when it comes to learning about democracy, care must be taken to encourage all progress, even the tiniest. However, I see no signs of this distinction either in the Commission’s communication or in the latest conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council.
I should also like to make one more comment about the Union for the Mediterranean, which is a key player in bringing the two shores of the Mediterranean closer together. Involving the UfM is an undeniable factor in the success in areas such as the environment, economic development or young people. The same will be true for support for democratic transitions. However, the EU must also do its share of the work. As the rapporteurs point out, the multilateral component of the European Neighbourhood Policy should serve to aid the early, effective launch of UfM projects.
Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D). – (LT) Madam President, I am pleased to congratulate the rapporteurs on their detailed review of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the valuable proposals provided. The Arab Spring has shown that, in the age of the Internet, regimes that appear tough are collapsing like a house of cards. Many colleagues have mentioned the report’s successful proposition of ‘more for more and less for less’. I believe that this principle is important in relation to the Belarusian regime. The European Union is rightly toughening sanctions against managers and the companies they control, but sanctions and trade restrictions should not have a detrimental effect on the already difficult lives of ordinary citizens in Belarus, where there has been raging hyperinflation. It is regrettable that the Belarusian authorities have not responded to the Brussels initiative to ease the visa regime, particularly because, as proposed in the report, we need to move more swiftly towards a visa waiver with those eastern countries that meet the requirements set.
Traian Ungureanu (PPE). – Madam President, much attention has been given to the Arab Spring events – and rightly so – but this should not serve as an excuse for self-inflicted blindness when one looks east. At a time when Soviet-style rule is making a comeback in Ukraine and Russia, the European Union must not divert its attention from the east.
The financial crisis has also encouraged an inward-looking policy that neglects our eastern neighbours. Of course, democracy and the rule of law are not commodities, but there is a stock exchange for them. In other words, our stance will be noted and judged by the freedom-seeking peoples of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
If we are really seeking an effective strategy for our neighbours, we need high political commitment and concrete initiatives. We should, therefore, proceed with visa liberalisation – of course in a responsible way – which means, among other things, that a visa-free regime should not follow the ‘Russia first’ principle.
Our eastern partners differ from our southern partners on account of their European identity and European aspirations. We should not only acknowledge their aspirations, but also – on merit – offer them an explicit membership perspective.
Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D). – (IT) Madam President, a huge effort has been made by the two rapporteurs to redefine European Neighbourhood Policy, which is necessary considering the great changes which are under way, particularly in the Mediterranean region, which is being affected by a new wind transforming a large number of its countries.
The huge leap forwards which this new phase has brought about must be achieved with strength and determination, to build the conditions for our support for the transition processes taking place. However, we must be careful because the movements that have begun in these North African countries are not linear: there are and there may be increasing numbers of counter-trends and we cannot be sure or confident of how things will end.
Nevertheless, we have to remain involved and not turn our backs on the situation. We should instead monitor these changes, paying closer attention and increasing our involvement. Of course, we should focus our attention on economic and financial issues, on the opening up of markets, on a process of regulated mobility, but now we also need to be more rigorous in demanding that the new laws uphold human rights, equality between men and women, and political and religious plurality.
These should be the cornerstones of a new neighbourhood policy if it is to be effective and not run into the mistakes of the past. I hope that the good work carried out by Commissioner Füle continues in this direction.
Lambert van Nistelrooij (PPE). – (NL) Madam President, Commissioner, the European Neighbourhood Policy has our warm support, especially in the light of the new course that is now being steered. I will focus on one small aspect of it, namely ENPI, the instrument for cooperation across the EU’s external borders. This concerns small-scale joint projects, sometimes involving cooperation between hospitals, sometimes involving cooperation between universities, projects which involve tangible contact between individuals.
For the 2007-2013 period, we have siphoned money away from the Regional Fund for ENPI. As part of a parliamentary study, a hearing, we have examined how well it has been functioning and concluded that it is barely functioning at all. We are also aware that the emphasis has been on capital cities, in particular, and that people in the regions, who are our partners, have had a tough time catching up with the cities. In recital 8, the report clearly indicates that, in the future, we need to employ more of those ERDF and Interreg cooperation methods. That is a very important signal, in my view. We simply need to pick that up in order to improve efficiency, as well as flexibility. These are, therefore, things that can be implemented very easily.
The Polish Presidency said something similar, just now, in its conclusions. You, therefore, have our support for this approach, but the ENPI does need to find a better way of functioning and one that is more cross-border-oriented. Our policy is not that capital cities should take centre stage, but the very projects that are closest to the people. Commissioner, how are we going to tackle this? I am a member of the Committee on Regional Development and would like to develop this further with you in the next regulation. We were able to work under an enhanced procedure this time around and I am given to understand that Mr Brok and his people will allow us to do that again.
Boris Zala (S&D). – (SK) Madam President, Turkey is a candidate country for accession to the European Union, but I believe that the EU’s foreign policy cannot wait for the outcome of this process. Turkey should therefore be drawn more into the European Union’s foreign policy, including by means of the European Neighbourhood Policy. It is therefore necessary for the Commission, as well as the External Action Service, to find any possible ways of drawing Turkey into the European Neighbourhood Policy. We can see that Turkey is active in promoting democratic reforms in the southern neighbourhood of the European Union. We need to draw both Turkish institutions and also non-governmental organisations into the European Neighbourhood Policy, which would create a synergistic effect. We need to restore a structured dialogue between the EU and Turkey in order to coordinate the neighbourhood policy of both countries. Finally, I believe that, in light of new trends, such an approach also needs to be applied to Russia.
Elmar Brok, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (DE) Madam President, Commissioner, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the two rapporteurs for having brilliantly handled the difficult task of bringing together these two neighbourhood policies, while also extending my gratitude to Commissioner Füle, who is trying to bring some political structure to this neighbourhood process, something that was lacking in the past. For different reasons, these regions are of great strategic importance to us, which is why we are not just helping these countries, but actually acting in our own interests.
It is clear to me that these countries are free to make their own decisions, that people have the feeling that we support their freedom and their way of life, and that we need to see both of these elements existing in harmony if this is to work. That is why structured aid is important to me – aid that happens faster, that includes opportunities for growth, employment and education and that can be provided where it is needed rather than simply commissioning studies. In the past, we were content with the soft option of simply commissioning studies on issues such as expansion in Central and Eastern Europe and other questions. The money then went to Germany, the UK or the Netherlands, where the recipients of the studies were located, rather than to the countries that needed it. I believe that improvements are in order here, so that the money really reaches people on the ground.
We need to promote the multilateral process. In North Africa, for example, 15% of trade is purely internal. If the multilateral approach is promoted, then there are enormous opportunities for growth, as well as opportunities to come together more closely on a political level, overcoming disputes between countries because incentives are provided, offering benefits when countries cooperate. Nonetheless, it should not always only be our bilateral relations with the relevant countries and the associated free trade zones, association agreements, perhaps, in particular, the Eastern Neighbourhood, that have a European perspective. I would say that it is important to discuss issues relating to the European Economic Area. However, the same applies to our willingness to open our borders in the interests of fair trading conditions.
Commissioner, I believe it is important to place greater emphasis on the question of promoting democracy and that the idea of an endowment foundation is a good one. You should, however, reconsider whether this cannot be achieved at Community level. We have a lot of money in the pot, as well as an instrument for supporting human rights, etc. We should make use of this before it atrophies. It would be a major mistake if we were to allow this to become an intergovernmental arrangement.
Teresa Riera Madurell (S&D). – (ES) Madam President, Commissioner, the Arab Spring has made it clear that Europe needs a renewed neighbourhood policy. For lasting democracy to take root in our neighbouring countries, it must be accompanied by fair and sustainable socio-economic development.
This is why I am pleased that we are also in agreement on strengthening cooperation in important areas such as research, innovation and energy. The Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament spoke up for this in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, since these are sectors with the capacity to help bring about development and create high-added value employment.
In order to support democratic reforms, the European Union requires an integrated strategy to underpin an inclusive economic model that can reduce social inequalities and create employment.
I believe this report is a step in the right direction, and I congratulate the rapporteurs.
Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (PPE). – Madam President, the crisis in Europe should not overshadow the fact that we are the biggest integrated economy in the world. I believe that, in order to concretely support the aspiration for democracy in the Mediterranean region, the EU should have the courage to truly open its markets.
Trade has been a driving force for progress and prosperity for us. Trade goes hand in hand with institution building. We see the success story with the customs union in Turkey. It has brought reforms towards the rule of law, towards better governance. Let us start considering and putting seriously on the table the extension of the customs union, starting with Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Let us engage in a dialogue with our counterparts in the region, in order to promote cooperation and regional integration among them and to remove the obstacles to free movement of people and goods.
In a valid and civil society – I am sorry that not everybody has been saying it – of course we should involve women and the amazing, fantastic, untapped potential for entrepreneurship and for business that exists in these women who were the first on the front line, without patronising them with regard to their culture.
Europe has been an example for inclusive and sustainable development. It is a source of aspiration for millions of young people; we should not let them go. Without a job, they will fall into despair. They will come to our borders. Let us open our borders for free and fair trade, in order to give jobs to the young generation on the Mediterranean shores.
Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D). – (RO) Madam President, the neighbourhood policy is important for promoting the European Union’s fundamental values and principles. Given that it is five years since Romania and Bulgaria became EU Member States, I call on the Commission to develop a European Union strategy for the Black Sea. This region is of paramount importance as part of the European Union’s external strategy in the energy sector. I should also stress the need for cross-border cooperation in the Danube region, given that the EU strategy for the Danube region adds significant value to the EU’s policy for Eastern Europe.
I think that the European Neighbourhood Policy needs to be linked to the European Union’s regional and macro-regional development policy, as well as to other EU policies, such as the transport policy. In light of the TEN-T review, I call for industrial centres and maritime and river ports in the Member States bordering the Danube to become nodes in the TEN-T core network. Including the Galaţi-Brăila-Măcin conurbation in the TEN-T core network will ensure not only the link between the Danube and the Black Sea, but also multimodal links with the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
Malika Benarab-Attou (Verts/ALE). – (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to draw your attention to two points regarding two of our partners on the southern shore of the Mediterranean.
The first point is the concern of many Algerians regarding current reforms and, in particular, the law on associations to be voted on in the Algerian Parliament. Algerian civil society is concerned that this law could stifle society as a result of two new things that it introduces. Firstly, all associations will have to apply for a licence in order to exist. Secondly, foreign funding, including European, will no longer be allowed.
The second point is that in Tunisia, at a time when the rule of law is being established and a new constitution negotiated, independent judges want our support so that they have the means to work towards establishing an independent judiciary and the training of Tunisian judges in transitional justice.
Commissioner, will you respond to these concerns and these demands?
Jaroslav Paška (EFD). – (SK) Madam President, I would like to encourage the strengthening of the economic framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
If we are able to find meaningful economic projects which will bring economic profit to both parties, we will also create a neutral platform for greater dialogue which will also allow us to debate social and political issues. As a concrete example, I would quote the interest of Russia and Ukraine in the extension of the broad-gauge railway deeper into the European Union. Currently, this railway ends at the Ukrainian border, and goods transported from the eastern coast of Asia cannot proceed smoothly into Europe. Many European companies would, however, make good use of such a transcontinental main line in the opposite direction to transport their products to the emerging Asian region. The joint profit from employment and economic development would certainly be beneficial for a better understanding between Europe and the participating countries.
Petru Constantin Luhan (PPE). – (RO) Madam President, I consider absolutely crucial the rapporteurs’ request to receive clarification from the European Commission concerning the complementarity between the Civil Society Facility, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the European Neighbourhood Instrument.
We have mentioned countless times the need for proper funding for the regions in the Member States located at the European Union’s external borders. I still think that substantial support is needed, provided through focused complementarity which is as efficient as possible.
The border regions are particularly important to the European Union. We require targeted intervention here which also supplements the impact of the cohesion policy with the effects produced by the measures and financial support granted to the European Union’s neighbouring regions. At the same time, we must be extremely vigilant in ensuring that there is no overlap in EU funding so that we manage the European budget as efficiently as possible.
Monika Smolková (S&D). – (SK) Madam President, I welcome all the procedures that have been implemented to facilitate the transiting of the Schengen border. The Visa Code is an example of this, and agreements on visa liberalisation serve to further reinforce it. This does not mean that we can be satisfied with the current situation. The European Union needs to advance its work on visa facilitation and gradually move to a visa-free regime. I would like to emphasise that attention should be paid to young people, the enhancement of synergies between Youth on the Move and the European Neighbourhood Policy, an increase in cooperation in the field of academic education and vocational training and the promotion of exchanges between higher education institutions and public-private partnerships for research and entrepreneurship. To support this idea, it will be necessary to award grants and create programmes. It will be necessary to provide flexible and accelerated visa procedures so that the liberalisation of the visa regime for the Eastern Partnership is not perceived as a mere declaration.
Jan Kozłowski (PPE). – (PL) Madam President, I would like to congratulate Marek Siwiec and Mário David on the preparation of this comprehensive report. I agree with the rapporteurs that the creation and support of the development of civil society structures is of particular importance. Financial means for this purpose should, however, be distributed appropriately, and reach not only the governments of neighbouring states, but also non-governmental organisations and all levels of society so that they can be used optimally and bring real effects. In addition, I would like to express satisfaction with the fact that measures aimed at supporting the development of democracy in neighbouring countries have been included in the Global Europe project proposed by the European Commission in the context of new multiannual financial frameworks. The Commission is devoting in excess of EUR 96 billion to this project, of which EUR 18 billion is allocated to the EU Neighbourhood Policy, and this represents an increase of 50%, which we very much welcome.
Luís Paulo Alves (S&D). – (PT) Madam President, we cannot talk about the European Neighbourhood Policy without including the outermost regions as active borders of Europe in different parts of the world. As external borders, the outermost regions transmit our values of democracy, peace, respect for human rights and fundamental rights to the third countries in these regions. Regions such as the French overseas departments absolutely need to be more integrated into their geographical areas. As they are far from the internal market of the Union, this integration is vital to their development and represents huge potential for the further development of the European Neighbourhood Policy with neighbouring third countries.
This policy requires a new impetus which also takes advantage of the special historical and cultural relations which the outermost regions of the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands maintain with North and South America. A more active role within the EU can and should be played by these regions under the new European Neighbourhood Policy.
Iosif Matula (PPE). – (RO) Madam President, the European Neighbourhood Policy requires the values underlying EU integration to be assumed by common consent: democracy, human rights, the rule of law, the fight against corruption, the market economy and good governance.
As a member of Euronest, I can see that relations with the Eastern Partnership states need to be rethought, by supporting them in building and strengthening not only democracy, but also their economies. Supporting civil society, ethnic and religious minorities and cross-border projects, developing bilateral and multilateral economic partnerships, launching major energy projects, not to mention resolving the conflicts in the region, are also measures which can provide specific benefits for citizens and are capable of improving the political climate.
I welcome the setting up of the High-Level EU Advisory Group to Moldova, made up of international experts, which offers assistance within the partnerships of the main public institutions. The purpose behind this is to support the implementation of the reforms and speed up the process of European integration.
I congratulate the rapporteurs on the excellent job they have done.
Mário David, rapporteur. – Madam President, with this report, we are proving our willingness to show our neighbours that we will no longer acquiesce on the defence of democracy, human rights and especially social justice. We will no longer focus on short-term stability at the expense of the best interests of the citizens, of their dignity, of constantly defending them and of their individual and collective freedom, with a particular focus on women’s and children’s rights.
We need to promote immediate economic assistance in order to foster the kind of economic changes which are preconditions for long-term stabilisation and prosperity. It is a fact that, by helping to solve the economic problems of our neighbour-partners in the south, we will also be solving part of our migration problems.
Allow me a word on Ukraine. We bear part of the responsibility for the developments which, regrettably, are taking place there. In order not to annoy its big neighbour, the EU has never shown any sign that Ukraine also has a European perspective, and I condemn this lack of political courage. Ukraine is a sovereign state, and it is up to its people to decide their future, which I will welcome if it is a European one.
Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion – and thanking you for this inspiring debate – I would just like to leave you with one final idea. Last year showed us that we all support the same ideas for a new neighbourhood policy in our Union. This proves that we have the will, which is strong; we finally have the means and, listening to Commissioners Füle’s announcements, we also have the financial resources. Now it is time to act, and the faster the better. As regards the effective needs and aspirations of the peoples of our neighbouring countries, tomorrow is always too late.
Marek Siwiec, rapporteur. – (PL) Madam President, our debate has put the wind in the sails of this new policy. The entire debate that has taken place in the European Parliament has put the wind in the sails of the changes under way, changes in which we have participated. We are participating in the better world which these changes aim to build, and we are also building a part of this better world for ourselves. Four hundred amendments to this document were tabled. We incorporated the amendments into our document.
The situation is that tens of hundreds of Members of national parliaments travel to the European Parliament. We interact with each other. We visit them, and, in fact, this dialogue is more intense than ever. The dialogue sometimes takes extraordinary forms, such as when Commissioner Füle visited Yulia Tymoshenko in prison, yesterday. We thank you for this visit, Commissioner, because you showed that we stand by this woman who finds herself in distress at this exceptional time.
Did we write the Bible? No, we did not write the Bible. We have written a cookery book from which dishes can be chosen, as from any good cookery book, but in order for there to be dishes, there must be a cook, there must be ingredients and there must be people to eat the dishes. Let us hope that this will be a cookery book with recipes for tasty dishes that everybody will enjoy.
Štefan Füle, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, those were very encouraging words. I am grateful for them. Let me share with this House a couple of personal points as a reflection on this very productive debate. It is not the first, and will not be the last, on the important issue of our relationship with our neighbours.
The first point is the importance of our addressing the internal and the external challenges at the same time because, whenever we try to forget the external challenges and focus only on the internal, or the other way around, we become not stronger, but weaker. It is that balance – taking care of our internal needs, strengthening integration – which enables us to be stronger externally also. It is that balance which turns challenges into opportunities.
My second point is on defending our borders, a subject mentioned in the debate. I am in favour of strong external borders; I am in favour of defending strong external borders; but I am against walls. We worked very hard to remove the wall dividing our continent and we should not, at the end of the process, try to rebuild that wall around our external borders. We need strong borders but ones which will be open, as one of you put it, for commodities such as democracy.
My third point is that I appreciate that the main aspect of interaction with this distinguished House is not this kind of plenary meeting – although such meetings have a huge importance – but the operational steering that both the Commission and the European Parliament have been engaged in for some time already. It is that operational steering which will help us to address a number of issues.
Some of you mentioned regional cooperation and cross-border cooperation. Others have a number of ideas about how to approach intelligent conditionality. By the way, sooner or later, I will be working very hard on that arrangement, and will come to this House with the High Representative to discuss our ideas about how to deal with ‘more for more’ principles. It is one thing to include such conditionality in our philosophical or conceptual approach to neighbourhood policy, but another thing to determine the relevant criteria. How exactly is it going to work? How exactly, according to what formula, are you going to spend those EUR 350 million in the framework of the Arab Spring? These are important questions and they need to be answered in dialogue with this House.
Cooperation with this House is also important if we are not to lose our way on the difficult road before us, because we are entering uncharted territory. Books will be written about what kind of reaction we provide. To help ensure we do not lose our way, I do not only need the input of this House; I also need you to help us to learn from our own mistakes and, sometimes, misjudgments, and provide us with feedback.
My fourth point is to reaffirm that democracy and women’s rights go hand in hand. Our neighbourhood policy will help those trying to break the political, economic and social barriers to equality, through measures ranging from enshrining women’s rights in new constitutions and laws to practical ways of supporting women in meeting their everyday challenges. This is a priority we are promoting across the board, and I am glad the European Parliament report shares that vision.
There has also been concern about the possibility of our moving funds from the EU development and humanitarian aid budget to the neighbourhood policy instrument. It is a fact that the European Union budget is finite; it cannot expand for ever, so we have to make choices. But let me make it absolutely clear that those funds we have already reallocated to the neighbourhood policy instrument from the development cooperation instrument came from allocations for middle-income countries where absorption was low.
My sixth and last point is that we will be issuing our next progress report on the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy next spring. I hope to be able to inform you in more detail on that occasion about what we are doing to deliver on the renewed ENP and the results of our policy. In the meantime, I need all the interaction, and all the support, you can provide because we are talking not only about a new neighbourhood but also about a new commitment, a new engagement and a new philosophy as regards our relationship with our neighbourhood.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Wednesday, 14 December 2011.
Written statements (Rule 149)
George Sabin Cutaş (S&D), in writing. – (RO) The situation created in the wake of the Arab Spring encourages us to review our neighbourhood policy to include to a significantly greater extent the efforts made in democratising a state. It is in our interest to have neighbours that respect the same principles as ours: democracy, respect for human rights and the freedom of expression. We must not forget either that bringing democracy to a society is beneficial to its social and economic wellbeing.
This is why I welcome the new approach taken by the European Neighbourhood Policy, whose aim is to give more support to neighbouring states which are implementing major democratic reforms. I would also like to stress the importance of entering into partnerships with civil society organisations in order to monitor the progress made. The latter must scrutinise governments’ actions, holding them to account when appropriate.
Jiří Havel (S&D), in writing. – (CS) The European Parliament’s contribution to the process of assessing the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is, apart from anything else, surely necessary in order to demonstrate our continuing interest in this topic. Perhaps our recommendations will also help us to avoid being caught on the hop quite as much as we were by the onset of the Arab Spring at the start of this year. In its conclusions, the assessment could also limit efforts to ‘purchase democracy’ for Belarus for USD 9 billion, and rule out a repeat of the undignified level of Member State participation at ENP events such as this year’s Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw. The qualified Polish Presidency did not deserve something like this. My reservation applies to the current government of the Czech Republic. As far as the Southern dimension of the ENP is concerned, when implementing the European Parliament’s recommendations it is essential to respect the distinct civilisations, cultures, religions and historical traditions of the countries of this region. The success of the ENP in the Mediterranean area is virtually a conditio sine qua non. We must also explain to our voters why political Islam is no longer a concern. Suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for example, was seen as part of the war against terrorism for the past 10 years. We also need to convince our voters that spending their money on the Southern dimension will not result in an Arab Winter. If we do not do this, it will surely be Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen and Pia Kjaersgaard who do the ‘explaining’ instead of us.
Cătălin Sorin Ivan (S&D), in writing. – (RO) I would like to congratulate the rapporteurs on the fine job they have done. It is in the European Union’s interest to show greater ambition in its neighbourhood policy. This year has been full of upheavals for the countries neighbouring us to the south. However, this does not mean that the countries to the east are not a priority. Many things have changed since the neighbourhood policy was launched. In actual fact, progress has been made recently. The European Union does not wish to impose itself as a model, but there are certain values which we should not abandon, even in these circumstances. The freedom of expression as well as press freedom are vital to the process of democratisation in the countries neighbouring the European Union.
Education is a key factor. We must create high-profile projects. For example, programmes which encourage the mobility of young people should be promoted. We must also highlight the importance of regional policy. The Arab Spring and the changes which are taking place in our southern neighbours should not sidetrack us from our eastern neighbours that have European aspirations.
Jaromír Kohlíček (GUE/NGL), in writing. – (CS) The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is a highly important policy. It should be emphasised that, in the resolution on this issue, explanatory point B now includes the rather vague formulation ‘the EU-ENP should be value-based’. It is not clear from this vague formulation how individual EU countries will cover the unpaid debts of the Gaddafi regime, nor is it clear whether tacit support for the various Islamic groupings that have grown far stronger in the recent elections in the Arab states of the Maghreb is the answer. A question arises as to what values will be promoted by the Union as a whole, and what values will be promoted by individual states. The creation of Euro-Mediterranean Erasmus and Leonardo da Vinci programmes is clearly a positive step. It is not clear from the resolution as a whole, however, whether the policy towards neighbouring states in the immediate future will be based on EU openness towards these partners, or on looking for ways to strengthen the external borders of ‘fortress Schengen’. It is very noticeable that the resolution makes no criticism whatsoever of dictatorial aspects of the regime in Georgia, and has somehow overlooked the constant procrastination over declaration of a Palestinian state. The parts relating to Belarus overstep the boundaries of good taste by meddling in the internal affairs of a neighbouring state, while skating over many negative aspects of Turkish foreign policy, for example, on the occupied area of Cyprus. For these reasons, the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left cannot support this motion for a resolution.
Cristian Dan Preda (PPE), in writing. – (RO) I would like to welcome the report presented by Mr David and Mr Siwiec and stress the need for the EU to have a revamped, consistent approach in the new European Neighbourhood Policy.
I am referring here, first of all, to consistency in relation to our own values. Respect for human rights and the basic freedoms, for democracy and the rule of law, are the EU’s common principles and objectives, which must really become common values shared by our neighbouring partners.
Secondly, consistency in terms of values must be translated into consistency in political action. We must therefore acknowledge the positive results achieved by our neighbourhood policy, as in the case of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, but also the adverse developments, as in the case of Belarus and Ukraine, and draw the necessary conclusions.
The eastern states neighbouring us which have shown a clear commitment to building genuine democracy and carrying out the necessary reforms should be given the definite prospect of European integration.
Lastly, consistency must be a feature of our approach to our whole neighbourhood. As I have emphasised already in this Chamber in the past, differentiation must be the basic criterion which applies to both the southern and eastern neighbourhoods.
Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid (PPE), in writing. – (FR) At long last, the European Parliament realises the importance of territorial and regional cooperation in its priorities for the next neighbourhood policy. The focus of the previous European Neighbourhood Policy was primarily on bilateral ENP action plans mutually agreed by the EU and each partner. We now also need to think about multilateral and local cooperation. We must focus our efforts on the southern component of this policy to provide long-term support for the democratic transition, economic development and regional integration of our southern neighbours. We therefore need to strengthen the cross-border dimension of this neighbourhood policy, as it represents only 5% of the overall budget of the ENPI. This dimension may act as a catalyst for many structural initiatives for cooperation in the Mediterranean. Establishing a genuine EU-Mediterranean partnership means not only taking the aspirations of the peoples into greater account, but also providing real investment in concrete projects. Local and regional cooperation arrangements ‘cemented’ on a daily basis between the North and South will do the same, if not more, for the democratisation of southern countries as major bilateral agreements void of operational variations.
(The sitting was suspended at 20.20 and resumed at 21.00)