We strive to create an area of prosperity, stability and security in our neighbourhood. We do this by providing assistance and incentives for deep structural reforms in neighbouring countries which will revive their economies and strengthen democracy. We are aware that a safe EU neighbourhood means safety for Europeans: stable, prosperous, democratic, well-governed and open countries facilitate people-to-people contact, commercial exchanges, contribute to wealth, the creation of jobs and opportunities, and peace. We have already shown what can be done!
In relations with countries of our Eastern Neighbourhood, we have been consistent in our policies and actions following the more for more principle, i.e. more reforms means more support. With the strong support of the EPP Group, the EU signed Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. In return, they committed to fundamental reforms and the results are visible: Ukraine, despite the ongoing conflict on its eastern territory, had implemented important structural reforms which led to positive trends in economic and social life. This includes reforms in fighting corruption. Georgia was commended for the respect of fundamental freedoms during local elections, for constitutional reform and reforms in the justice sector, and for the evolution towards a better parliamentary system. The country also adopted a revised anti-corruption strategy and an action plan. Moldova signed the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and adopted a new human rights action plan for the next four years.
With regard to the countries in the Southern Neighbourhood, our policy allowed the achievement of an effective and coherent partnership with each country of the region. During the revision of the EU Neighbourhood Policy in 2015, the EPP Group pleaded for a limited number of priorities with focus on conflict prevention and tackling the root causes of the countries’ fragilities. In addition to the need for the stabilisation of the countries, the latter required also making the best possible use of the economic and human potential of the countries. In order to speed up reforms in the neighbouring countries, we support scholarships and intercultural exchanges, like Erasmus+, and continue to work closely with our partners in different areas, namely security, economic development and reforms in administration. The EPP Group has also consistently raised the issue of the persecution of Christians and freedom of religion as an issue which should be part and parcel of the EU’s response to the countries of the South Mediterranean. These steps will strengthen democracy in the countries and will be of benefit to their societies.
As most countries in the region are either a source of migration to the EU or a hub for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, we have insisted, and will continue to do so, that they need our support to fully address the root causes of migration. The EPP Group has insisted that a policy of returns and readmissions be part and parcel of our relationship with neighbouring countries. We pushed for clear conditionality between the EU’s visa policy and cooperation of third countries on returns, i.e. If countries do not cooperate on returns, this will have a bearing on EU Member States when deciding on granting visas to their nationals. For the upcoming term, the EPP Group is committed to continue seeking new, faster rules on returns of those who don’t have the right to protection in the EU back to their home countries. We will request appropriate financial resources in the new EU long-term budget for cooperation with countries of origin and transit of migrants.
The European Union’s borders are no longer along the shores of the Mediterranean but at the edge of the Sahara desert. We have to increase EU training and equipping efforts to increase the capabilities of our partners. We have equipped the revamped European Border and Coast Guard with the capacity to cooperate with third countries and to even set up antenna offices to strengthen the partnership and support for our partners. We will now continue supporting the work of the agency and make sure that it is equipped with sufficient resources from the Member States.
A better life for people in our neighbourhood
As a result of the reforms encouraged by the EU, the countries of the EU’s neighbourhood can benefit from economic growth, the creation of more jobs and therefore a better perspective for young people. This, in return, will incentivise the youth to stay in their countries instead of trying to come to Europe, often illegally and endangering their lives. Economic development needs to be coupled with a stable security environment, effective defence and law enforcement services, rule of law, protection of the borders and establishing security for citizens.
What we want to do in the next 5 years:
- The EPP Group wants €93.1 billion to be earmarked for Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation policies in the period 2021-2027, increasing the European Commission proposal (€89.2 bn) by 4.4%. The funds should be effectively used to promote and operationalise mutually agreed priorities by the EU and partner countries, also based on adhering to strict conditionality to provide value for money;
- We want to strengthen the accountability and transparency mechanisms in the partner countries so they have the capacity to absorb and spend European funds in an efficient and meaningful way;
- We want to assist, together with international financial institutions, in creating an environment conducive to economic growth and the creation of jobs in partner countries, linked with the establishment of a friendly business regulatory environment and independent justice system;
- We want to strengthen the European Endowment for Democracy, which assists pro-democratic civil society organisations, movements and individual activists acting in favour of a pluralistic multiparty system regardless of their size or formal status. It compliments other EU instruments with flexibility and responsiveness;
- We want to focus on strengthening and consolidating democracy, the rule of law, good governance, independence of the judicial system, the fight against corruption, respect for diversity and the rights of minorities, including religious groups;
- We want to support partner countries in building proper state structures to deal with security issues, such as effective law enforcement, terrorism and organised crime. We want to engage in areas such as security sector reform and post-conflict situations, in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration to fully take advantage of the possibilities created by CBSD (Capacity Building in Support of Security and Development) in order to enhance the capacity building of military actors in partner countries with EU funds so as to achieve peaceful and inclusive sustainable development of societies in those countries;
- We want to actively assist in the peaceful settlement of conflicts in partner countries, utilising tools such as confidence-building programmes, restoring dialogue, mediation and reconciliation, and the promotion of people-to-people contacts;
- We want appropriate financial resources in the new EU long-term budget for cooperation with countries of origin and the transit of migrants.
A ring of peace at our borders
The EPP Group believes that in order to contribute to peace and stability in our neighbourhood, the EU needs to nurture effective partnerships with neighbouring countries and implement policies that offer support in exchange for reforms that will create a better perspective for their people and incentivise them to stay in their home countries. Our ambition is a ring of peaceful, prosperous, stable and secure partners at the EU’s borders.