EU’s relationship with neighbouring states must be based on democracy, prosperity and security

Everybody needs good neighbours - especially the EU - says Sir Robert Atkins MEP

STRASBOURG, 19 January 2006 -- MEPs today backed a UK Conservative MEP’s report which seeks to strengthen the EU’s relationship with countries on the bloc’s periphery.

Sir Robert Atkins, Conservative Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the approval of the report on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was an important signal to European countries like Ukraine and Moldova that the long-term prospect of EU membership was open to them.

He said negotiations currently underway in London between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the recent controversy between Russia and Ukraine over gas imports, underlined the importance of the EU engaging actively with neighbouring countries for the sake of mutual prosperity and security. He said energy security - particularly the transport of oil and gas across borders - was of huge importance to the EU.

The ENP aims to strengthen the EU’s cooperation with all neighbouring non-EU states to the south and east which are not already candidates or prospective candidates. It promotes values of good governance, democracy and respect for human rights; seeks further liberalisation of trade; and urges greater efforts to enhance security and combat cross-border crime.

Sir Robert Atkins said:

“We know from the horrifying wars in the Balkans a decade ago that the EU cannot just ignore the problems and challenges that neighbouring states face.

“The European Neighbourhood Policy sets out high standards of governance for other countries to meet if they are to benefit fully from the relationship the EU is offering.

“But we must also offer incentives to those countries, including greater access to EU markets and - where appropriate for qualifying European countries - the prospect of eventual membership of the EU.

“There are many conflicts simmering on the EU’s periphery, over land, resources and ethnicity. Some of these conflicts, such as the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, have been dragging on for decades. It is in the EU’s interest to be actively involved in resolving the potential for conflict through a policy of constructive engagement based on mutual interests.”

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