Ladies and Gentlemen,
First let me thank Mr Anders Hellner and the Swedish Institute of International Affairs for co-hosting this seminar with the Commission in Sweden.
I am very happy to be here today in this beautiful city, on my first visit to Sweden as Commissioner for External Relations.
Sweden has always played an important role in promoting international peace, understanding and solidarity. It has a distinguished record of statesmen and women of which it is rightly proud, from Raoul Wallenberg to Dag Hammarskjold, from Olof Palme to Anna Lindh. With such an international pedigree Sweden clearly makes an enormous contribution to the EU’s international standing.
Giving the EU a stronger voice in the world is one of the four priorities of the Barroso Commission, together with prosperity, solidarity and security. Our most urgent task is to restore dynamic and sustainable growth in Europe and provide more and better jobs to Europe’s citizens. All of which requires a strong EU, able to promote and protect its interests on the international stage.
We are also facing another major challenge - the gap between the EU’s achievements and the way its citizens perceive it. Across Europe people are asking what the EU is for, what it is doing to respond to their concerns and how it will help meet 21st century challenges.
The EU has to deliver results in areas its citizens deem important – jobs, security, energy and migration.
The stronger we are, the more we can deliver. And by achieving concrete results we will re-establish confidence in the EU and demonstrate to our citizens the benefits of European Union in the 21st century.
Which brings me to the topic of today’s seminar, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Many of you here will remember the genesis of ENP. It’s a policy which has always had strong support from the Swedish government. Anna Lindh and Leif Pagrotsky were among its chief proponents.
The EU’s aim is to expand the zone of prosperity, stability and security beyond our borders. The question is how to use our soft power to leverage the kinds of reforms that would make that possible.
The answer, in the decade following the fall of the Berlin wall, was enlargement. This has been a tremendously successful policy, with a momentous impact on the European continent. EU enlargement has made an extraordinary contribution to peace and prosperity, thanks to our strategic use of the incentives on offer. And I know Sweden has been a strong supporter of this policy.
Nor is it over – we still have work to do to consolidate 2004’s enlargement and there are new enlargement commitments on which we must deliver.
Yet it is clear that the EU cannot enlarge ad infinitum.
So how else can we pursue our geo-strategic interest in expanding the zone of stability, security and prosperity beyond our borders? How best can we support our neighbours’ political and economic transitions, and so tackle our own citizens’ concerns? ENP provides the answer.
At its heart is the question of borders – not as a way of defining ourselves, but because they are key to many of our citizens’ urgent concerns – security, migration and economic growth. As Sweden knows full well, borders cannot be solely about barriers and obstacles. They must work flexibly as a facilitator of economic, social and cultural exchanges.
That, in its essence, is what the European Neighbourhood Policy is about. It is about responding to our citizens' concerns for prosperity, security and stability, not with an abstract concept but with concrete, measurable results. And it is about helping our neighbours towards their own prosperity, security and stability, not by imposing reforms, but by supporting and encouraging reformers.
We offer our eastern and southern neighbours many of the benefits previously associated only with membership, such as a stake in our internal market, involvement in EU programmes, and cooperation in transport and energy networks.
It is designed to offer a privileged form of partnership now, irrespective of the exact nature of the future relationship with the EU.
ENP is based on the same kind of positive conditionality underpinning the enlargement process. We agree Action Plans with our partners which set out the path to a closer relationship. Differentiation is key – each country's Action Plan responds to its particular needs and capacities. In addition, progress is rewarded with greater incentives and benefits. Only as our partners fulfil their commitments to strengthen the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights; promote market-oriented economic reforms; and cooperate on key foreign policy objectives such as counter-terrorism and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, will we offer an even deeper relationship.
Knowing the important role Sweden has played in the Northern Dimension, I should point out that ENP is coherent with and complementary to other processes in which we participate with our partners. The principle of differentiation applies to our relations with all our partners. With each one we promote our mutual goals in ways specific to that country.
Questions have been raised as to whether the incentives on offer are sufficient to encourage reform, and whether this is not simply a repackaging of old policies in new clothes. My response is two-fold. First, the impetus for meaningful reform must always come from within. If that desire is not there, no amount of external assistance or pressure will build sustainable reform. That is why the EU believes in encouraging not imposing reform. Second, the EU's offer through ENP is not a second-best option to enlargement, but rather a highly-desirable step-change in our relations offering substantive benefits to all involved.
ENP has enabled us to tackle some of our citizens’ most pressing concerns, like energy supplies, migration, and security.
We need to continue to pursue close energy cooperation with our partners in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus, and the Mediterranean. In all my visits to neighbourhood countries, including Ukraine last week and the South Caucasus last month, energy features heavily.
ENP promotes integration with Europe’s energy market and helps to create the regulatory environment in which private sector investment in infrastructure can take place. It also helps the countries concerned come in line with European standards and norms.
In 2006 we will be boosting our energy cooperation as part of a broader EU effort on energy supply – which will be outlined in the Commission’s Green Paper tomorrow.
Migration is a highly sensitive issue for EU public opinion. In uncertain times, it is understandable that our citizens are worried about employment and increased competition for jobs.
Europe needs migration. Our populations are getting smaller and growing older.
Through ENP we are trying to manage migration better: welcoming those migrants we need for our economic and social well-being, while clamping down on illegal immigration.
Throughout our neighbourhood we support projects to strengthen institutional capacities; improve border controls; upgrade reception facilities for asylum applicants and refugees; and fight illegal immigration and people trafficking. We are also helping to build institutions that enforce the rule of law and promote respect for human rights.
We are also using the ENP Action Plans to help increase security. We have fostered practical cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on issues such as trade, energy and transport. Increasing cooperation and economic growth are absolutely vital for a sustainable solution to the Middle East conflict. We will continue these actions with the new Palestinian government, providing it seeks peace by peaceful means, recognises the state of Israel and respects its international commitments.
The border assistance mission to Moldova and Ukraine is designed to contribute to resolving the long-running sore of the Transnistria conflict. And the Action Plans we are currently discussing with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia will address issues relating to Nagorno-Karabakh and Georgia’s internal conflicts.
An important part of ENP is the commitment partner governments make to political reform. We are offering extra financial assistance to those countries making real progress in implementing political reforms and promoting human rights.
ENP also promotes economic and social reform, both for reasons of solidarity, but also because we want stability in our neighbourhood and thus added security for ourselves. So we are tackling poverty through employment creation schemes; funding health and education projects; and promoting economic development by improving the trade and investment environment and stimulating small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Through the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation, we are working to build bridged between different peoples and cultures. As recent events have shown, this must remain an important focus of our attention. Here we can build on the great experience and credibility of our member states, particularly Sweden.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We hope to expand full participation in ENP to Belarus, Libya and Syria. But the political conditions are not yet ripe. Will the elections in Belarus in less than two weeks pave the way for increased democracy and so participation in ENP? Unfortunately, the signs are not good. Until that day we have to look for alternative ways of fostering the conditions for democracy. Over the last year we have found innovative ways to channel assistance, such as the daily broadcasts produced by Deutsche Welle, and our support for the European Humanities University in Vilnius. Last week our new €2 million project for independent television and radio broadcasting began. We will continue our commitment to the Belarusian people, whatever the results of the elections, for democratic change is a long term project which requires sustained commitment from us all.
We hope that after its elections at the end of this month Ukraine will be in a position to take its cooperation with the EU still further. We would like to do more, like moving towards a free trade area as soon as Ukraine joins the WTO and finalising visa facilitation and readmission.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am grateful for Sweden’s continued support for the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy and I look forward to discussing with Minister Freivalds and the Riksdag later today how we can go further together.
Our task is to build on ENP’s early achievements and to make it a truly beneficial policy for both our neighbours and ourselves. As we deliver results we are not only benefiting our neighbours, but also demonstrating to our citizens that the European Union does bring them an added value.
On the eve of international women’s day, let me leave you with the words of one of Sweden’s most outstanding women, Anna Lindh, “For democracy to work in our society and passivity to disappear,” she said, “people must first come together and learn to work together for common goals.” We owe it to her memory, and the memory of Olof Palme, the 20th anniversary of whose death was last week, not only to work together, but to achieve those common goals.