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Procedure : 2007/2271(INI)
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Document selected : A6-0266/2008

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PV 09/07/2008 - 12
CRE 09/07/2008 - 12

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PV 10/07/2008 - 5.6
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Thursday, 10 July 2008 - Strasbourg
The Commission's 2007 enlargement strategy paper

European Parliament resolution of 10 July 2008 on the Commission's 2007 enlargement strategy paper (2007/2271(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Commission's Communication on the Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2007-2008 (COM(2007)0663),

–   having regard to its resolutions of 16 March 2006 on the Commission's 2005 enlargement strategy paper(1) and of 13 December 2006 on the Commission's Communication on the Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2006-2007(2),

   having regard to its previous resolutions on the countries of the Western Balkans, Turkey and the European partners of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP),

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education (A6-0266/2008),

A.   whereas the EU's Enlargement Strategy has both an external and an internal dimension,

B.   whereas the external dimension of this strategy involves the promotion of reforms, in line with European standards, of democracy, of respect for human rights, of peace and of stability and prosperity,

C.   whereas the internal dimension of the Enlargement Strategy directly influences the EU's ability to pursue its policy objectives and to achieve an ever closer union, as laid down in the Treaties,

D.   whereas a politically integrated EU capable of developing ambitious solidarity and stability policies is necessary,

E.   whereas, in accordance with the Treaty of Rome, "any European state may apply to become a member of the Community",

F.   whereas, since previous enlargements have undoubtedly been a success both for the EU and for the Member States which joined it and have contributed to the stability, development and prosperity of Europe as a whole, it is essential to create the conditions needed to ensure that future enlargements are a success too,

G.   whereas the Stabilisation and Association Agreements are making an important and successful contribution to relations between the EU and the western Balkan countries with a view to their European integration, and are promoting regional cooperation,

H.   whereas the 2003 European Council held in Thessaloniki and the 2006 European Council held in Brussels reaffirmed the EU's intention to respect its commitments to the countries of south-eastern Europe and the western Balkans,

I.   whereas the renewed consensus adopted by the European Council in December 2006 is based on the principles of consolidation of commitments, fair and rigorous conditionality and better communication with the public,

J.   whereas the Enlargement Strategy is much more than a negotiating methodology, reflecting as it does the core belief that the EU is a community of shared values and is intricately linked to the debate on the EU's objectives and effectiveness, its future and its role in the neighbourhood and the world,

K.   whereas the methodology and criteria outlined in the above-mentioned Commission Communication for pursuing accession negotiations deserve full support and should be implemented rigorously, and whereas political considerations should not override strict compliance with those criteria,

L.   whereas the EU's Enlargement Strategy should be part of a broad array of policy instruments designed to consolidate democracy and build stability and social development in the EU's neighbourhood and to enhance the EU's role in the world,

M.   whereas these policies should encompass the variety of situations prevailing in the EU's neighbourhood, notably in those countries which have candidate status and have started negotiations, those which have candidate status but have not yet started negotiations, those which have membership prospects, those which have a European integration goal and those which merely wish to have close neighbourly ties with the EU,

N.   whereas these policies should be independent and without prejudice to provisions allowing a given country to advance from one type of relationship with the EU to another, if the necessary internal and external conditions of that country are fulfilled,

O.   whereas the Eastern partners of the ENP are clearly identifiable as European countries and some of them have expressed a European perspective goal,

P.   whereas, as stated in its above-mentioned resolution of 13 December 2006, countries with European prospects should benefit from a close bilateral or multilateral relationship with the EU, matching their specific needs and interests; whereas this option, which entails a broad spectrum of operational possibilities, would grant partner countries a stable, long-term perspective of institutionalised relations with the EU and provide the incentive necessary to foster stability, peace, respect for human rights and democratic and economic reform in the countries concerned,

Q.   whereas, in accordance with the same resolution, it would be up to all countries with recognised membership prospects to decide whether they want to benefit from similar multilateral arrangements as an intermediate step towards full membership,

R.   whereas the EU Enlargement Strategy needs also to be effectively explained and communicated to the current EU citizens as well as to all future citizens so as to ensure that they are fully aware of the policies in question and boost public support for the EU's commitments towards its neighbours, thus guaranteeing the EU's credibility and solidarity as a partner while seeking to respond to legitimate concerns,

1.  Agrees with the Commission that past enlargements have been a great success, benefiting the old as well as the new EU Member States by fostering economic growth, promoting social progress and bringing peace, stability, freedom and prosperity to the European continent; believes that lessons can be learned from previous accessions and that further ways of improving the quality of the enlargement process must be based on the positive experiences accumulated so far;

2.  Reaffirms its firm commitment to all candidate countries and to those which have been given clear membership prospects, with the understanding that full and rigorous compliance with all the criteria laid down in Copenhagen in 1993 is imperative, that the EU must make efforts to strengthen its integration capacity and that this capacity should be fully taken into account;

3.  Recalls in this context that, for the countries of the former Yugoslavia, full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is also a sine qua non;

4.  Takes the view that the EU's Enlargement Strategy should comply with the provisions of the EU Treaty and reflect the commitments already entered into by the EU, as well as striking a balance between the EU's geo-strategic interests, the impact of political developments outside its borders, and the EU's integration capacity, including its ability to cope with future internal and external challenges and to realise its political integration project;

5.  Recalls in this context the need to undertake the necessary internal reforms, aimed at, inter alia, increasing efficiency, social cohesion and strengthening democratic accountability;

6.  Recalls that integration capacity is linked to the EU's ability at a given point in time to decide on and thus to achieve its political objectives, in particular the aims of promoting economic and social progress and a high level of employment in its Member States, of asserting its identity and its ability to act on the international scene, of promoting the rights and interests of EU Member States and European citizens alike, of developing an area of freedom, security and justice, of fully maintaining and building on its acquis communautaire and of upholding fundamental rights and freedoms, as laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;

7.  Considers that the concept of integration capacity comprises four elements:

   i) accession states should contribute to and not impair the ability of the EU to maintain momentum towards the fulfilment of its political objectives;
   ii) the institutional framework of the EU should be able to deliver efficient and effective government;
   iii) the financial resources of the EU should be adequate to meet the challenges of social and economic cohesion and of the EU's common policies;
   iv) a comprehensive communication strategy should be in place to inform public opinion about the implications of enlargement;

8.  Stresses that, in order to enhance the credibility and the effectiveness of the enlargement strategy, the Copenhagen criteria must be fully respected and complied with by Member States as well, in order to avoid requiring of applicant countries higher standards than those applied in some parts of the EU;

9.  Recalls, furthermore, that the economic structure and interests of each new Member State could have an impact on the direction which the EU's policies and budget take and that the policy adaptations required could affect the nature of the EU itself; recalls that a cohesive Community of nations and citizens must be based on coherent policies and solidarity of interests;

10.  Considers that the budgetary as well as the broader economic and social implications of further possible enlargements must be taken into due consideration during the mid-term review of the 2007-2013 multi-annual financial framework and the drafting of subsequent financial frameworks;

11.  Is also convinced that any acceding State should try to resolve its main internal problems, particularly those concerning its territorial and constitutional set-up, before it can join the EU; takes the view that, before and during the negotiations with any such State, the EU should assist in resolving those issues;

12.  Endorses the emphasis on consolidation, conditionality and communication as guiding principles of the EU Enlargement Strategy;

13.  Takes the view that every enlargement must be followed by adequate consolidation and political concentration, that is to say, by a serious reassessment of the EU's policies and means in order to respond to the expectations of European citizens and to guarantee the viability of the EU as a political project;

14.  Is concerned that enlargement without adequate consolidation and preparation could negatively influence the EU's internal cohesion and could have serious implications for the EU's capacity to act, since it would weaken its institutions, make Member States more vulnerable to external pressure and undermine the EU's credibility as global actor;

15.  Believes, moreover, that the success of the enlargement process (and, thus, the success of the EU political integration process) can only be achieved if there is clear and long-lasting public support for the EU membership of each candidate country; is therefore of the view that further enlargements should be accompanied by a concerted communication policy involving all EU Institutions and Member States' Governments, as well as representatives of civil society, and that this communication policy should be designed to explain to the EU's citizens the political, economic, social and cultural benefits of enlargement; therefore reminds the governments and parliaments of the Member States that it is their responsibility adequately to inform public opinion about the positive achievements of former enlargements, the status quo of the ongoing negotiations and the issues connected with the accession of new Member States;

16.  Takes the view that countries with European prospects should make every effort to explain, involve and prepare their public opinion for integration into the EU, involving civil society in this process from the outset;

17.  Is also convinced that the Enlargement Strategy should be flanked by a more diversified range of external contractual frameworks and that these frameworks could be structured as mutually permeable concentric circles, with countries being offered the opportunity, under strict but clear internal and external conditions, to move from one status to another if they so wish and if they fulfil the criteria pertaining to each specific framework;

18.  Affirms that participation in the ENP does not constitute, either in principle or in practice, a substitute for membership or a stage leading necessarily to membership; takes the view that the conceptual, political and legal gap existing between the EU's Enlargement Strategy and its Neighbourhood Policy needs to be filled in order to respond to the expectations of its eastern neighbours; is convinced that the Commission's strengthened neighbourhood policy is not sufficient in this respect, although it represents an already positive step in the right direction, and that a more substantive qualitative change is required;

19.  Suggests, therefore, that, as regards those eastern neighbours which, in view of their political, economic and social situation and the EU's current integration capacity, at present do not enjoy membership prospects but at the same time fulfil certain democratic and economic conditions, the EU should establish an area based on common policies covering, in particular, the rule of law, democracy and human rights, foreign and security policy cooperation, economic and financial issues, trade, energy, transport, environmental issues, justice, security, migration, visa-free movement and education; takes the view that these common policies should pursue the overall goal of assisting the eastern neighbours gradually to achieve EU standards and thus open the way for their closer integration into the European fold; is also convinced that the common policies referred to above should be shaped jointly with the participating countries on the basis of specific decision-making mechanisms, and should be underpinned by adequate financial assistance; takes a positive view of the Polish-Swedish proposal for an Eastern Partnership submitted to the meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 26-27 May 2008, provided that the initiative which that proposal involves is pursued within the framework of the EU;

20.  Welcomes the re-launch, within the framework of the EU, of the "Barcelona Process: A Union for the Mediterranean" as a positive step in the EU's relations with the southern neighbours; believes that this new development strengthens the argument in favour of specific contractual multilateral relations also with the EU's eastern neighbours, which, compared to the southern partners, have clear European ambitions and perspectives; recalls that, as a first step, these relations should translate themselves into the establishment of a Free Trade Area, to be followed by closer relations along the lines of a European Economic Area Plus (EEA +), of a European Commonwealth or of specific regional cooperation frameworks;

21.  Reiterates, in the context of the above-mentioned specific regional cooperation frameworks, the importance of devising a more sophisticated and comprehensive EU strategy for the Black Sea region, that goes beyond the current synergy initiative and envisages the establishment of a Black Sea Cooperation Agreement, which should include the EU, Turkey and all Black Sea littoral states as equal partners, while seeking the full involvement of Russia, and which could, at a later stage, develop into a Union of the Black Sea; believes that such a multilateral framework would not only offer the countries involved the possibility of strengthening their cooperation with the EU across a wide variety of policy fields, but would also allow the EU to play a more active role in finding peaceful solutions to the region's conflicts, thus contributing positively to security in the region;

22.  Believes at the same time that countries which enjoy recognised membership prospects but still have considerable ground to cover before they can attain the political, economic and social conditions necessary to achieve candidate status, could usefully participate, on a totally voluntary basis, in arrangements similar to the above-mentioned bilateral or multilateral frameworks; recalls that such an intermediate step would facilitate the deployment of all instruments available to the EU in order to help the countries concerned on their path towards full membership;

23.  Welcomes in this context the Commission Communication on the Western Balkans: Enhancing the European Perspective, of 5 March 2008 (COM(2008)0127), which outlines a range of measures for supporting the countries in the region in their efforts towards EU integration and for deepening the EU's relations with them, whether in the areas of trade, energy, education and/or research; expresses satisfaction at the signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement on 7 November 2007 with the Republic of Serbia and on 16 June 2008 with Bosnia-Herzegovina, which it regards as a further step in consolidating the ties between the region concerned and the EU; calls in this respect for the negotiations for visa liberalisation with the countries of the western Balkans to be speeded up, in order to facilitate their participation in Community programmes;

24.  Urges the Commission to come up with concrete proposals for a more diversified external relations policy towards the EU's neighbours, along the lines outlined in the present resolution, and, when considering its own administrative set-up, at least to establish a link between the activities carried out by the Enlargement and the RELEX Directorates-General;

25.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ C 291 E, 30.11.2006, p. 402.
(2) OJ C 317 E, 23.12.2006, p. 480.

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