Azerbaijan, Baku, June 22 / Trend, E.Tariverdiyeva /
EU relations with its neighbours, including with Eastern Partnership countries, are probably at a turning point, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle said.
"The overall priority in our relations with Eastern partners is the effective implementation of the ambitious agenda set by the Eastern Partnership Warsaw Summit (29-30 September 2011). Therefore, we have offered our partners close political association and deep economic integration," Füle said.
He said the EU's main tools in the implementation of the EaP agenda are Association Agreements which include also the aim of establishing deep and comprehensive free trade areas, where appropriate.
"With the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, the negotiations of the Association Agreements are under way and our priority is to advance them as quickly as possible so that until the time of the next EaP Summit in autumn 2013 we would be close to their finalisation or even able to initial them," he said.
According to Füle, the EU also has an ambitious agenda in the area of mobility where final goal is a visa free regime.
"At the same time, we are determined to deepen our partnership with civil society, increase financial assistance for civil society organisations and invest more in young people from EaP countries through increasing their participation in our educational programme "Erasmus for All", he said.
Füle said the EU countries need to do their best to accelerate the process leading to opening DCFTA negotiations in the South.
"Sector co-operation should be re-enforced with the view to achieving concrete results in the next few years. And progressively we should open EU programmes and agencies to partners' participation. The reviewed European Neighbourhood Policy defines the "end game" in this regard, an ambitious one with a concrete idea about what we want to see as results," Füle underscored.
"The EU has been quick and determined in establishing the policy's new foundations. We can say that we are now better equipped to develop our links with each partner as far as their own aspirations, needs and capacity allow," he said.
Füle said since the adoption in May 2011 of a new European Neighbourhood Policy, based on mutual accountability and a stronger partnership with societies, the EU has been quick and determined in establishing the policy's new foundations.
He believes that after years of relative stagnation, democracy is increasingly taking root in the neighbourhood. The general trend points towards a more accountable form of governance and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
"The EU and its Neighbours must now keep the momentum to strengthen their relations," Füle said.
He said the EU is seen as a reliable partner that delivers on its commitments.
"The EU has covered a lot of ground in twelve months. Let me give you some examples. We have adapted our policy instruments. We have continued our work to upgrade contractual relations, obtained mandates for new trade negotiations, initiated mobility dialogues, re-oriented and increased our financial assistance (€600 million to support democratic transition, economic development and people-to-people contacts). And through extended EIB and EBRD mandates we have opened the door to substantial additional investments in partner countries," Füle said in his interview.
He underlined that obviously, this needs to be sustained. But most partner countries have welcomed the new European Neighbourhood Policy proposed by the EU and have indicated their readiness to pursue political and economic reform with increased determination and to engage more deeply with the EU.
Füle said the cooperation with Eastern partners is founded on a joint commitment to fundamental values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Therefore further strengthening of democracy in partner countries remains our overarching priority. In May 2012, the High Representative and the Commission published a Road Map of the Eastern Partnership which would streamline the implementation of the EaP and provide a means for more regular monitoring.
The Eastern Partnership Program is a Polish-Swedish initiative under the EU Neighbourhood Policy aimed at improving EU relations with six former Soviet countries Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine and Armenia. The programme envisages the allocation of 600 million euro to these countries until 2013 to strengthen state institutions, control borders and help small companies.
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