I am delighted that we have all gathered here today to exchange our views and ideas on the European Neighbourhood Policy. My thanks go to the European Commission, and especially to you, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, for having organized this conference.
Strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy was one of the main priorities of Germany's presidency of the EU Council in the first half of this year. That was no coincidence, for the ENP makes a major contribution to fostering stability, security and prosperity in neighbouring countries and, consequently, in the EU itself. The European Neighbourhood Policy is a partnership from which both sides benefit. That is why we want to strengthen it and to give our partners powerful incentives to effect more extensive reforms.
It remains the case that performance-based differentiation and tailor-made support are the key factors in the Union's relations with its partner countries.
Let me also stress that the ENP remains a separate matter from that of EU membership. In no way does it prejudice future developments in relations with our partner countries. The European Neighbourhood Policy is not about barring doors.
Where can we strengthen the policy? Let me very briefly highlight a few areas. Freer trade and economic integration are absolutely crucial elements of an enhanced ENP. One of the greatest incentives the ENP offers our partners is better access to the internal market. This applies especially in sectors where our partners have comparative advantages.
We intend to create this economic network by means of a new generation of free-trade agreements, which should also provide for the adoption of the Community acquis in specific fields.In the energy sector, for example, we are thinking of an extension of the Energy Community for South-East Europe to include Ukraine and Moldova. We hope to achieve that objective by the end of the Portuguese presidency of the Council. And we are seeking an energy partnership with Algeria too.
It is also important to me that we take our citizens 'on board' in our Member States and that our partner countries do likewise. People must experience the benefits of the ENP through palpable improvements such as an increase in intercultural exchanges. Besides readmission agreements, special importance attaches in this context to arrangements for the simplification of visa procedures.
Another important area is the migration issue. Better control of migration is a central component of our partnership. The consensus view in the EU is that a purely defensive migration policy would have little prospect of success in the long run.For this reason the European Council agreed in December 2005 on a Global approach to migration. Germany's aim, during its presidency of the Council, was to include the regions on Europe's eastern and south-eastern fringes in this approach, which was initially focused on the neighbouring regions to the south.
Cooperation in the Black Sea region is also important to us. Germany took the occasion of Bulgarian and Romanian accession to propose the development of more intensive political activity on the part of the EU with regard to the Black Sea region.Our intention is to promote practical, results-based cooperation in that region in sectors of cross-border significance. We are thinking specifically of areas such as energy, the environment, transport, migration and the fight against organized crime.
Let me conclude by expressing our support for the Commission's efforts to expand the planned neighbourhood investment fund. This fund will strengthen the budgetary leverage of the EU and promote the pooling of resources from the main donors. The key to its success will be a convincing structure and substance, not least as regards the existing instruments of the neighbourhood policy. It is now up to the Commission to present proposals.
I think we can safely say that the EU has taken important steps towards making its offers to its ENP partners more tangible and credible. At the same time, I hope that our partners will be ambitious enough to continue along the path of reform on the basis of the action plans. Let me say this to our esteemed partners: the extent to which you benefit from the new enhanced ENP package will ultimately depend on the pace and quality of your reforms.
In the first instance, however, I keenly await the results of this conference. My wish is that, in this and other frameworks, we shall continue to pursue our constructive and cooperative partnership.