"Wider Europe - the last five years" - Speech by EU Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner
Sommaire: 13 October 2009, Brussels - Speech by Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, "Wider Europe - the last five years" at the American Chamber of Commerce's Plenary meeting
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First, thank you for this invitation to address you. As you know, the European Commission greatly values the contribution you, as business representatives, bring to fostering good transatlantic relations.
So I am pleased to have this opportunity to share views with you, particularly with the EU-US Summit coming up in just three weeks time, the first official Summit with President Obama after our informal meeting in Prague this spring.
The key priorities of the Summit will be the global economy and climate change, following up on the positive G20-Summit in Pittsburgh. We will of course also discuss the major international issues on which the EU and the US cooperate closely: notably Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.
One of the major outcomes will be the creation of a new EU-US Energy Council looking at global energy security, new technologies and research, which I will co-chair and which will have its first meeting on November 4. The idea is to literally "re-energize" our cooperation in this crucial field, complementing the important work being done by the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC), which will also be given a new boost (and which will meet a week before the Summit)
I know many of you are involved in the TEC; maybe some of you participated in last week's stakeholder meeting. We are very happy with the opportunity it gives business to be at the table: I hope you will continue to lend it your support and active involvement to further strengthen the transatlantic marketplace.
You have asked me to talk not about the broad transatlantic relationship but rather about the EU's relations with its neighbours in the Wider Europe, which will of course also be an important part of our discussions at the Summit.
When I took office the EU was just beginning a new departure in its relations with its neighbours, the European Neighbourhood Policy. It was a long overdue recognition that the EU's interests are tightly bound up with developments in its eastern and southern borders and that we need stable and predictable relationships with our neighbours. In short: if we don't "export" stability, we risk "importing" instability.
Five years on ENP is still the principal way we engage with our southern and eastern neighbours, with the exception of Russia, which I will come back to later. ENP's aim is creating a wider area of stability, security and prosperity around Europe's borders.
In the last year or so we have taken steps to strengthen ENP by adding regional and multilateral initiatives: the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean.
The Eastern Partnership is the newest innovation. Against a background of deteriorating governance standards and a region very badly hit by global financial and economic crisis, our aim is to anchor our Eastern neighbours more closely to us by offering more intensive help for reform than we have ever offered before.
We offer the prospect of deep and comprehensive free trade areas, which in the long term, could grow into a regional network.
It's a two-way street: they want freer trade; the EU wants to encourage reform. Each side must pay a price to reap longer term benefits. We can only make real progress on Free Trade Agreements with economies that are genuinely ready to open up to competition. Yet that competition also applies to us: we must be ready to open our markets to goods from new competitors.
Energy is also key, and we offer:
1) tailor-made bilateral support to boost each country's own energy security;
2) multilateral cooperation to improve early warning and crisis preparedness; and
3) flagship initiatives to help diversify the EU's sources of energy supply and transit and promote green energy.
Despite the difficult economic and political conditions we are seeing progress. But with the tensions between Ukraine and Russia over energy; this year's turbulence in Moldova; continued uncertainty over the secessionist territories in Georgia; and, despite rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia, the continued challenge of Nagorno-Karabakh, we cannot waiver in the political attention we pay to these neighbours. This is an investment for Europe! To succeed, we must keep our commitment and
sharpen our incentives. But let me also reiterate that the ENP is not a one-way-street. We need to see similar reform commitment by our neighbours and friends.
Union for the Mediterranean
To our South we now have the Union for the Mediterranean, which builds on the Barcelona Process. The Union for the Mediterranean has given renewed vigour to Europe's relationship with its southern neighbours.
Concrete projects lie at the core of the Union for the Mediterranean, aiming for a visible impact on people's lives by promoting growth, employment, regional cohesion and socio-economic integration.
The Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership provides capital to the private sector on terms that are not available locally. We are working on clean energy initiatives like the Mediterranean Solar Plan. And we are supporting the development of an efficient and integrated Euro-Mediterranean Transport Network.
Establishing a Euro-Mediterranean Free Trade Area is still an important objective. In July we signed our first agreement on conformity assessment, with Israel. And we expect to conclude our negotiations on the liberalisation of trade in services and the right of establishment with Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Israel next year.
Perhaps my biggest regret is that not all our Southern neighbours - I think of Algeria, Libya and Syria - have taken us up on the offer of closer relations. And of course the Union for the Mediterranean has been affected by the same political issues as the Barcelona Process. We hope soon to see a return to negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
Now let me turn to our relations with our biggest neighbour, Russia.
We certainly have a complex and at times difficult relationship. But there are many areas where it is in our mutual interest to cooperate.
On the economic front our relationship is dominated by energy. Just under 40% of the EU's gas imports rely on one monopoly alone: Gazprom. But Russia is equally dependent on us: over 60% of Russian oil and gas exports flow to the EU and Russia's pipelines are largely directed towards us.
There are opportunities for mutual benefit: the Russian oil and gas sector badly needs more investment all the way along the production chain, and international investors are keen to invest.
The EU is also directly affected by Russia's energy relations with its neighbours and by the seemingly annual crises of supply.
For these reasons we want energy to be a significant part of the New Agreement we are currently negotiating.
More broadly we are looking for an improved investment climate in Russia, with a more efficient and reliable legal system. WTO membership would facilitate our relations, but the recent decision to seek membership as part of a customs union with Kazakhstan and Belarus could cause delay.
Today's Russia is a challenging partner, but there is huge potential for our relations depending on the political, economic and social choices Russia makes. Our relationship is one of mutual inter-dependence, and I think both sides ultimately understand that.
We see eye to eye on many of the major international issues and we have been open to the Russian proposal to review European security arrangements. But this must go hand in hand with efforts to solve the conflicts in our shared neighbourhood.
I hope that these short thoughts have given you a flavour of the way we approach our neighbourhood and the kinds of issues currently on the agenda. Our success in dealing with our neighbours is a test for the EU's foreign policy, and an important contribution to the transatlantic partnership.
Our American friends rightly expect the Union to play an even stronger role in these crucial regions. It is up to us to continue to deliver. And I am confident that with the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty, which we hope will take place soon, we will be even better placed to achieve these strategic goals.
- Ref: SP09-079EN
- Source UE: Commission Européenne
- UN forum:
- Date: 13/10/2009
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