Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-05-04-Speech-2-109"

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". Mr President, one of the tasks of the enlarged European Union will be the continuation of the enlargement process. Our common target is to carry through the accession process for Bulgaria and Romania in 2007. This of course depends on whether both countries complete negotiations and all necessary internal reforms. 2004 will also be decisive for Turkey and the report and recommendation to be brought forward by the Commission in the autumn will be one of the last big decisions of our mandate. Let me turn now to our neighbours outside the enlarged EU. Last autumn this House had an opportunity to debate the European neighbourhood policy. This policy has been developed as a response to the new opportunities and challenges created by enlargement. Together the Union offers an ambitious policy to our neighbours in the east and the south, based on shared values and common interests, and aiming at preventing the creation of new dividing lines in and around our continent, and at expanding the area of peace, stability and prosperity. The European neighbourhood policy is distinct from the issue of possible accession to the EU. Though we are not closing doors, the European neighbourhood policy is not about future enlargements since it is addressed to neighbours who do not currently have the prospect of accession. At this stage, we will build on the existing institutional framework of our relations, the association or partnership and cooperation agreements. Differentiation is a key notion to the European neighbourhood policy. It results from the different situations of each partner, as well as of its relationship with the Union. The European neighbourhood policy is based on the principle of joint ownership in line with the European Union's approach that political and economic reform cannot be imposed and that successful cooperation can only build on mutual interests and the principle of equality of partners. In the course of the last months, we have been working out the various aspects of this new policy and we are preparing, in close consultation with partners, a first package of action plans to be jointly adopted with them. These actions plans will set out the agreed priorities of our relationships in key areas, as well as mechanisms to ensure their timely implementation. Next week the Commission will present a strategy document on the European neighbourhood policy, together with country reports on this first group of countries. The action plans will provide new political momentum to the Union's relations with partner countries. The action plans will focus on political dialogue and reform, trade, market and regulatory reform, cooperation in the fields of energy, transport, the information society, the environment and people-to-people contacts. The content and priorities agreed with each partner country will differ and depend on its particular circumstances. The plans will identify key actions in a limited number of priority fields and include a clear time horizon. The action plans are expected to be adopted later this summer. Turkey's chances depends on its fulfilment of the political criteria, as was the case for all the other candidate countries. The sequence is clear. First the political criteria and then the negotiations. As regards the Western Balkan states, as you are aware, the Thessaloniki European Council last year fully supported the European perspective of the Western Balkan states becoming an integral part of the European Union once they meet the conditions for accession and the so-called political and economic criteria and they can demonstrate that they are ready to assume the obligations of membership. Two weeks ago my colleagues, Commissioners Patten and Verheugen, presented to you the Commission's opinion on Croatia's accession and the Commission concluded that Croatia fulfils the political criteria for membership and has recommended the opening of negotiations. This is now likely to be taken up by the European Council in June. This House has always shown its full support for and engagement in the enlargement process. My colleague Commissioner Verheugen would have liked to have been here today. In March he debated with this House the last steps in the accession of the ten new Member States which joined us last week and on the accession prospects for Romania and Bulgaria, as well as the current state of play for Turkey. Less than two weeks ago, he reported to this plenary on the final preparations for the accession of Cyprus, recalling once again the clear preference of the EU for a united Cyprus to join the Union. As we have all seen in the meantime, this desire on the part of the Union was not fulfilled and, as a result of democratic referenda held on the island on 24 April, the Annan plan for the reunification of the island was rejected. The Commission deeply regretted that the Greek Cypriot community did not approve the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem, but we have to respect the democratic decision of the people. The Commission warmly congratulated the Turkish Cypriots for their 'yes' vote. This signals a clear desire by the community to resolve the island's problem. Last week Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy engaged in a lively debate in the wake of the referenda result and on that occasion Commissioner Verheugen stressed the commitment of the EU to come forward with comprehensive proposals to put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community. The Commission was invited to do so by the Council at its meeting in Luxembourg on 26 April, and financial support totalling EUR 259 million will be earmarked for this purpose. The Commission has already initiated the necessary planning to that end and intends to bring forward comprehensive proposals on trade and aid measures within the coming weeks. A new spirit of cooperation between the two communities will be necessary for the implementation of the announced measures. At this stage, I can only recall the position of the Commission that the Turkish Cypriots must not be punished by this situation and that we will help them to overcome their economic isolation, as well as continue to bring them closer to the Union."@en1

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