NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICY:

EU institutions discuss on a new Neighbourhood Policy, after systematic failure of the Union to have a common external policy to strengthen its global influence. This should have a growing territorial cooperation element, particularly at the external borders of the Union. The AEBR is following these debates with interest and has activated its partnership with strategic contacts, as several national (particularly Finland, Moldova, Russian and Ukraine) and regional governments, as well as networks (NEEBOR). In the meantime, the EU is developing some interesting proposals to coordinate and make more coherent the support to all actors involved in the Southern Mediterranean, while highlights some priorities in its relationship with Latin American countries and the African Union.

 

Looking at the debates in the European Parliament, declarations by the Commission representatives, and the governments of the partner countries, to have a real influence in the Neighbourhood countries, the EU should take up several questions:

-          Mobility of persons: this includes migration and visa issues, as well as the implementation of a more flexible and ambitious labour immigration policy. These questions, particularly related to the Mediterranean countries, have been on table since 2005, but very little has been done due to the blocking of the EU Member States (MSs).

-          Free access to the EU market, including free trade agreements. The question is: Are MSs ready to forget their quota policies on agricultural goods?

-          EU funding: some ask for a better fund allocation, without substantial increase, for Southern Mediterranean countries, while others ask for a “Marshall Plan” with billions of Euro for support.

-          EU’s role in conflict settlement.

 

 

A joint communication by the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EAS) released last 25th May proposes to allocate an additional € 1,25 billion by 2013 for the needs of the countries in the Mediterranean and Eastern EU neighbourhood. This aid should be conditioned by the partner countries’ respect of democracy and human rights. In particular, this conditionality would measure efforts for regular and free elections, freedom of association, of expression, of assembly, administration of the rule of law, and reforms in the security and law enforcement sectors.

 

The EU also insists on supporting lasting economic and social development in the partner countries, including trade ties. It is not about opening markets, but ensuring that partner countries can benefit from this opening, helping their products to fit EU standards and finding a ground for fair competition between all partners. Quotas on agricultural products in the Southern EU MSs are still an open question.

 

In the following links you can find:

-          The Joint Communication to the Parliament, the Council, the EESC and the CoR “A news response to a changing Neighbourhood”: (COM (2011) 303) (attached in EN, FR and DE)

-          The Press Release (IP/11/643) “A new and ambitious European Neighbourhood Policy”, in the different languages of the EU: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/11/643&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

-          The MEMO document 11/342 (in English, French and German): http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/342&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

-          The Joint Staff Working Paper “A Medium Term Programme for a renewed European Neighbourhood Policy 2011-2014” (only in English): http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/pdf/progress2011/medium_term_prog_2011_13_en.pdf

 

 

Regarding the relationship between the EU and the Mediterranean countries, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has proposed a technical assistance programme for four pilot countries (Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Egypt) for the implementation of public-private partnerships (PPP) at the 9th Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP) Conference in Casablanca last 30th May. The EIB will ask the ECOFIN Council next 12th July to extend the mandate of the EPEC (the European PPP Expertise Centre of the EIB) to include the Mediterranean region.

 

The FEMIP considers 2010 as a record year with investments of € 2.6 billion in the 9 Mediterranean partner countries, with a 60% increase over 2009, according to the annual report presented at the end of May. They provided support to 18 projects in energy, transport, water, industry, human resources and health, with the majority of funding granted to the public sector (57%).

 

On 7th June, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, announced the establishment of a task force to ensure the coordination and coherence of the aid given by all actors involved in the Southern Mediterranean.

 

 

On 14th June, the Representation of Finland in Brussels hosted a round table discussion on the future of the EU external cross-border cooperation. The basis of the debate was the study on the “EU External Border Co-operation after 2013” prepared by Mr. Pekka Järviö, independent consultant and former Ministerial Counsellor in the Government of Finland (see the study attached as PDF). The Finnish ministries of Foreign Affairs, and Employment and the Economy, the Polish Ministry of Territorial Cooperation, the Parliament, the EAS and the AEBR discussed intensively on the perspectives for CBC at the external borders of the EU in the next period.

 

Overall conclusion: the delivery of ENPI CBC programmes has been less than satisfactory and, in the case of Finland, has put the regions on the Russian border in a disadvantaged position. These 13 programmes need to be implemented more efficiently in the future. Two management models can be differentiated:

  1. The current model based on external Community assistance, centralised management and PRAG rules (Practical Guide to Contract Procedures for EC External Actions);
  2. A model based on cooperation and shared management with programme level jointly agreed implementation rules.

All speakers expressed their criticism with the current model, complicated, too centralised and time consuming; being in favour of a shared one. The representative of the Polish Ministry also informed the intention to initiate discussions during the Polish Presidency of the Council to link ENPI CBC and Cohesion Policy. On the other hand, the special case of Russia within ENPI CBC is to be further analyzed, as they participate with an equal amount of co-financing despite of not being an ENP country. Therefore, the framework is to be further discussed.

 

 

On 20th June, the EU Foreign Ministers met in Luxembourg and endorsed the key elements of the EU’s communication on the ENP. They also welcomed the creation of a task force for the Southern Mediterranean neighbourhood, highlighting the need to appoint an EU special representative. The decision to allocate additional funding should be taken under the normal budgetary procedure. For the next MFF post-2013, the ministers ask the Commission to propose a neighbourhood instrument based on simplified programming.

 

 

On the Eastern Neighbourhood, the EU will launch negotiations for visa facilitation agreements with Belarus, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

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