Building a stronger compact with our neighbours: A new momentum for the European Neighbourhood Policy - Statement by the Foreign Ministers of the Weimar Triangle

01.04.2014 - Press release

Since the inception of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) a little more than ten years ago, our neighbourhood – South and East – has changed dramatically. In some cases, transitions or political developments are encouraging. In other cases, they are still fragile or went astray. As a result, the original rationale for developing the ENP – building an area of stability, shared prosperity and common values – remains stronger than ever. At the same time, the ENP has to adapt to these changes and rise up to the challenges and opportunities created by this new context.

We, the Foreign Ministers of the Weimar Triangle, are convinced that the EU's first priority on the international stage is to make a difference in its neighbourhood. Europe needs a Neighbourhood Policy which keeps the political dimension at its heart. Our neighbourhood will remain the most important arena for the external action of the EU, including the Common Foreign and Security Policy, in the coming years.

We are therefore in favour of building an ever stronger compact with our neighbours, through improved people-to-people contacts, closer political cooperation, enhanced trade and deepened economic integration. This calls for a new momentum for the European Neighbourhood Policy that should:

- Put people first and improve ENP’s visibility: the ENP should further promote and facilitate people-to-people contacts between the EU and its neighbourhood and within the entire neighbourhood. Greater attention should be paid in this respect to the youth, which must be offered more exchange and training opportunities (student exchanges and mobility, vocational training). We need to continue expanding our support for civil society – also with a view to better communicate principles and actions of the ENP. We need to continue working towards an easier movement of people with those partners who have agreed visa liberalisation action plans or concluded mobility partnerships with the goal of enhanced cooperation on mobility. The human dimension must remain one of the central parts of the policy with the aim of building understanding between people of the eastern and the southern neighbourhood and the EU.

- Grant special attention to the issues of rule of law and good governance: EU support needs to focus on structural reforms that facilitate democratic transition and create an attractive environment for business and foreign direct investment. All relevant EU instruments should be mobilized (including ENI and CSDP civilian missions).

- Increase the political profile of the ENP and make it more effective, through improved dialogue and cooperation drawing on all EU instruments: current forums and instances of dialogue with partners will need to be revitalized and rationalized, fully involving the High Representative and the relevant Commissioners. The Neighbourhood Commissioner and the High Representative must work together and the High Representative shall provide political guidance. The role of the EEAS in the ENP shall be strengthened to ensure proper planning and coordination. At the same time, Commission insight, expertise and tools remain indispensable for the success of the ENP.

- Tailor further our offer to the needs of each of our partners in a true spirit of co-ownership: while a common framework for all our southern and eastern neighbours must be

maintained, the ENP needs to allow for greater differentiation among partners. Commitment to shared values like democracy and human rights and willingness and ability to engage in political association and economic integration (Association Agreement/ Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area) should be the gateway to the full-fledged ENP offer and advanced political cooperation. At the same time, we need to seek new avenues with those neighbours who are not willing or able to embark on an Association Agreement/ Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. We need to adjust the Eastern Partnership and offers made to the southern neighbourhood taking into account political realities in which our partners operate.

- Provide extra incentives for those partners who are the most advanced in association with the EU: these partners have already been offered Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements that will bring them closer to the EU. If they wish so, the next option for them should be to take part in a common Economic Area that would enable them to integrate further with the EU single market. The definition of the scope and content of the Common Economic Area as well as its relation to the European Economic Area and to the EU single market needs to be a priority for the next Commission. We need to tap further in the cooperation opportunities relating to the external dimension of EU's internal policies, e.g. in the field of energy, environment or industrial cooperation.

- Improve our capacity to deal with crises in our neighbourhood and to make differences in the short term, including through CFSP and CSDP instruments: recent crises have shown that our offer is often too much long-term oriented. We need to be able to deliver short term incentives, including through quick start packages. Neighbourhood Policy should further exploit CFSP and CSDP instruments to enhance the crisis management capacity of our partners.

- Make our financial assistance more focused and more flexible: the EU has made €15.4 billion available for the ENP for the 2014-2020 period, which is a significant commitment. As a result of the revision of the ENP, the EU also introduced an incentive-based approach. However, the long-term programming of neighbourhood funds often restricts our ability to react swiftly to changes and challenges. We should increase its flexibility to allow for speedier and more strategic delivery of support. A substantial proportion of neighbourhood funds should be available at shorter notice so that the EU can react to new developments on the ground. Short term and long term instruments should also be better coordinated and internal EU procedures for implementation of assistance reviewed and significantly shortened to ensure faster results. The instrument of Macro-Financial-Assistance as a constitutive tool of EU’s foreign policy should be strengthened.

- Strengthen further regional integration in our neighbourhood: as we develop our ties with our neighbours, we should continue to encourage them to further develop regional integration and cooperation among themselves. Regional cooperation can be encouraged by developing common standards, enhancing support to regional programs and solving conflicts that stand in the way.

- Reach out to (and work with) the neighbours of our neighbours provided they are willing to cooperate in a win-win fashion: while the EU will continue not to negotiate its relations with its neighbours with third partners, its offer is not meant to create new dividing lines and is not exclusive of others. Synergies should be sought between the ENP and initiatives pursued with other partners, be they candidate countries, strategic partners or regions benefiting from EU funds and programmes.

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