Emma Udwin: Inclusion of S Caucasus in European Neighbourhood Policy has strong regional implication'

Emma Udwin: Inclusion of S Caucasus in European Neighbourhood Policy has strong regional implication'

Interview of Trendwith official spokeswoman of European Commission on External Relations and Neighborhood Policy

Question: What are the perspectives of the European Unions New Neighborhood Policy in respect to South Caucasus, in particular, Azerbaijan?

Answer: The overall purpose of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), is for our neighbours to the East and to the South to share the peace, stability and prosperity that we enjoy in the European Union and to create a ring of friends around the borders of the new enlarged EU. In the case of the South Caucasus and Azerbaijan, we would like to assist in creating the right conditions for the solution of long-standing conflicts in the region. We also want to help extend reforms in crucial areas such as democratisation, human rights and to encourage economic development and trade cooperation. We hope this will help boost growth in the region and help tackle poverty.

Question: What are the procedures for the commencement of an action program under the program? Has the development of an action plan been set up and when it could be submitted to Brussels for approval?

Answer: The procedure for the ENP Action Plan is quite simple. In April 2005 the Council of the European Union asked the Commission to undertake consultations with ENP partners and produce a joint draft. We have recently started our talks with the Azerbaijani government and our aim is to finalise the Action Plan as soon as possible. Of course, being a joint document, the pace of the process will be set by both the Commission and our Azerbaijani counterparts. Once we have finalised a draft text, it will have to be adopted by the Council of Ministers and by the Azerbaijani government, each according to their respective procedures. The Action Plan is then finally endorsed by the Cooperation Council, the highest-level body established by the EU-Azerbaijan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).

Question: Will Azerbaijan, as an inseparable part of the New Neighborhood Policy, upgrade the relationships with the EU on bilateral basis, or Brussels wants to develop the complex relationships with all three Southern Caucasus countries?

Answer: An important keyword of ENP is "differentiation", meaning that we want to be able to use a range of tools and incentives to address the different problems in each country. Each Action Plan that is developed is therefore unique and meets the challenges specific to that country.
The inclusion of Southern Caucasus in the Neighbourhood Policy has in addition a strong regional implication. As a successful example of regional cooperation itself, the Union wants to encourage the same approach also in other parts of the world, with the obvious differences due to different contexts, historical and political situations of the individual countries.

- On 12 December Brussels hosted an EU meeting on the general affairs and foreign relationships with a major accent on the implementation of European neighborhood policy in regard to member-countries, including in respect to Azerbaijan. What are the results of the gathering?

Answer: In December I gave a presentation to the General Affairs and External Relations Council (European Foreign Affairs Ministers) on the first year of implementation of the first seven ENP Action Plans. These Action Plans have been drawn up with Ukraine, Moldova, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia. I also gave the Council an update on negotiations for five more action plans with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia and Lebanon. Both the Commission and the Council remain committed to accelerating this work, aimed at building a zone of increasing prosperity, stability and security in the EUs neighbourhood. This is in the interests of both the neighbouring countries and of the EU itself.

Question: How do you estimate the last talks between the EU and the South Caucasus countries held in Brussels in December?

Answer: The three meetings held on 13 December were constructive and gave both sides the opportunity to discuss issues of common interest.

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