Monday is going to see real money on the table to foster good relations with non-EU countries at the bloc’s periphery. An ambitious package of measures proposed by the European Commission would be to strengthen the European Neighbourhood Policy.
700 million euros could apply to a wide range of projects. Securing the supply of energy and its transport infrastructure would be one area.
External relations spokesperson Emma Udwin:
“We have a policy which brings very concrete benefits, very tangible advantages for people in these countries and for ourselves and we have all an interest in just getting on with it. The question about accession is for another day.”
Mediterranean states already enjoy favourable trade terms under this policy;
Eastern countries could be offered similar ones, and the prospect of easier visas.
Broader ties with neighbours on fuel transit routes are a key aim.
Analyst Mario Telò, in Brussels, is convinced the initiative is worth its weight:
“It’s essential for an EU with 500 million inhabitants, with a further 500 million around them to have actively cooperative relations, shared values and common actions, in case urgent problems arise, for example the crisis in Lebanon.”
The Neighbourhood Policy, concerning 16 countries, offers closer ties in return for economic and political reform.
If EU states match the Commission funds proposed, a source said, they could grow to seven billion euros of soft loans.