Füle: 2012 has been a challenging year in EU neighbourhood (15/01/2013)
2012 has been a challenging year in EU neighbourhood, Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, told Heads of Delegations of the Neighbourhood region during their meeting on 14 January in Brussels.
Füle said that democratic transitions in southern neighbours “are proving long and often difficult”. At the same time, in the Eastern neighbourhood, the democratic transition “remains uneven, although there has been more signs of positive developments from Moldova in particular”.
“Everywhere, the economic situation has been negatively affected by the crisis in Europe. This makes it more difficult for partners to embark and implement complex reform”, the Commissioner stressed.
As he argued, the EU has also heard more voices calling into question the new approach to the European Neighbourhood Policy decided in 2011. However, it is not the time to change the course, Füle assured, adding that the EU needs to explain better the positive short term and long term consequences of the engagement with the EU under the ENP.
Füle also recalled that the next ENP package will be adopted on 20 March. The Commission’s intention is that the package will be issued earlier than last year, so that the assessments of the progress reports can be better taken into account for the annual programming of financial assistance to partners, according to the principle of "more for more", he said.
“Progress reports should be increasingly clear on what the EU regards as key to democratic transformation in each neighbour partner country”, the Commissioner emphasized.
As he explained, the latest progress reports Delegations have prepared show that some progress has been made in 2012 towards free and fair elections in the neighbourhood, but that much remains to be done in particular in the areas of civil freedoms and rule of law.
The Commissioner also touched upon the meetings with senior officials of Southern partners on 5 November and of Eastern partners on 4 December, saying that “the meetings took stock of ENP implementation so far and looked at challenges ahead”.
“Southern partners asked for more sustained political dialogue with the EU. Eastern partners wished to make progress in relations with the EU by the November Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius”, Füle argued.
The EU, on the contrary, stressed the need for “enhanced reform particularly in the area of deep and sustainable democracy, which would lead to stronger relations between partners and the EU”, Füle said.
The Commissioner also touched upon the ENI (European Neighbourhood Instrument), which is due to replace the ENPI (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument). One of the key aspects for the ENI during the next programming period will be the implementation of the “incentive based approach” (”more-for-more”), Füle said, adding that there would be a direct link between progress reports and extra assistance.