The EU must be prepared to play a more active role in conflict resolution issues in its neighborhood, including through participation in peacekeeping operations, a new strategic paper unveiled by the European Commission on December 4 says.
The document, under the name ‘Strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy,’ may be significant for Georgia, which has long been calling for an increased EU role in resolving the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts.
The paper, which is an upgrade of the EU’s Neighborhood Policy (ENP), was developed by External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and offers a number of favorable conditions for the EU’s southern and eastern neighbors, including: deep trade and economic integration with the EU; substantially improved visa procedures for certain types of visitors; a strengthened regional approach in the east based on existing Black Sea co-operation; and strengthened political cooperation with more systematic association of ENP partners with EU initiatives.
Georgia has been part of the EU Neighborhood Policy (ENP) since 2004. Georgia and the EU signed an Action Plan in the frames of ENP in Brussels on November 14, 2006.
“Frozen conflicts” are not only the problems of the European Union’s neighbors, and if it cannot contribute to addressing conflicts in the region the EU will fail in one of its key purposes, the document says.
According to the paper these conflicts remind the EU that the conditions for peaceful coexistence remain to be established, “both between some of our neighbours and with other key countries.”
“They risk producing major spillovers for the EU, such as illegal immigration, unreliable energy supplies, environmental degradation and terrorism… Such conflicts can threaten the Union’s own security, whether through the risk of escalation or of an exodus of refugees, or by interrupting energy supplies or cutting trade and transport links, or through the spread of terrorism and organised crime including trafficking in human beings, drugs and arms,” the document says.
It also assumes that there is a need, in the interest of all concerned, “to engage Russia in closer cooperation in preventing conflicts and enhancing stability across Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus.”
“The ENP can never substitute for the regional or multilateral efforts underway to address these issues. But the EU must be prepared to play a more active role here, whether through full participation in such efforts, or indeed through case-by-case participation in civil or military monitoring or peacekeeping operations. Border-management operations also have an important part to play here,” the document reads.
“Black Sea Synergy”
A strengthened regional approach will become “an essential part” of the ENP after the Black Sea becomes an EU border following Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the Union in January 2007, the document says.
“Enhanced cooperation in the Black Sea region – a 'Black Sea Synergy' – can also help to prepare the ground for overcoming long-standing regional conflicts,” according to the paper.
It describes the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (BSEC) as “a useful platform” for EU’s dialogue with the region.
The European Commission is currently examining the possibility of establishing closer contacts with BSEC, including observer status, and will offer to establish a regular dialogue with BSEC at the Foreign Minister level, “which would help implement and develop further the Union’s Black Sea regional policy.”
The European Commission also plans to address the issue of strengthened Black Sea dialogue in a separate document in 2007.
The proposed paper will be discussed both by the EU Council and Parliament and also will become a subject of dialogue with EU partner countries. The European Commission intends to organize a high-level conference dedicated to the issue in 2007.
The ‘Strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy,’ document is expected to become a part of EU policy during the incoming German Presidency in the first half of 2007.