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Council Conclusions on European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

1. The Council confirmed that the objective of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is to share the benefits of an enlarged EU with neighbouring countries in order to contribute to increased stability, security and prosperity of the European Union and its neighbours. The ENP offers the prospect of an increasingly close relationship, in the spirit of the Council's conclusions of 16 June 2003, involving a significant degree of economic integration and a deepening of political cooperation, with the aim of preventing the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged EU and its neighbours.

2. The Council welcomed the Communication on the ENP prepared by the Commission in close co-operation with the SG/HR. It endorsed the main orientations of the paper. It considered that it provides an excellent basis to carry forward work on the ENP and is in accordance with the goals of the European Security Strategy.

3. The Council recalled that Russia was a key partner for the EU. The EU and Russia had decided to develop their specific strategic partnership in the context of the four common spaces, as agreed at the St. Petersburg Summit in May 2003.

4. The Council confirmed that the privileged relationship with neighbours covered by the ENP will be based on joint ownership. It will build on commitments to common values, including democracy, the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights, and to the principles of market economy, free trade and sustainable development, as well as poverty reduction. Consistent commitments will also be sought on certain essential concerns of the EU's external action including the fight against terrorism, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and efforts towards the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts as well as cooperation in justice and home affairs matters. The level of ambition of the relationship with each neighbour will depend on the degree of the partner's commitment to common values as well as its capacity to implement jointly agreed priorities. The pace of progress of the relationship with each neighbour will acknowledge fully its efforts and concrete achievements in meeting those commitments. The Council underlined that the ENP will bring added value, going beyond existing cooperation, both to partner countries and to the EU. To this end, it will be essential to maintain the coherence and unity of this policy, in its content, instruments and final goals.

5. The Council welcomed the Commission proposal to pursue the ENP through action plans to be agreed jointly with the neighbouring countries concerned. They should have a minimum duration of three years and be subject to renewal by mutual consent. Such action plans should be based on common principles but be differentiated, as appropriate, taking into account the specificities of each neighbour, its national reform processes and its relations with the EU. Action plans should be comprehensive but at the same time identify clearly a limited number of key priorities and offer real incentives for reform. Action plans should also contribute, where possible, to regional cooperation.

6. The Council welcomed the Commission's proposal to use the bodies under the Association Agreements and PCAs to advance and monitor implementation of action plans. The Council deemed that the structures under the relevant agreements, where appropriate, should be reviewed, to ensure that all priorities under the ENP are duly reflected.

7. The Council reiterated the importance of its continuing involvement in the development and implementation of the ENP. A first review of implementation of the action plans will be undertaken within two years of their adoption, taking as the basis assessment reports prepared by the Commission, in close co-operation with the SG/HR on issues related to political co-operation and the CFSP, and with the input of partner countries. On that basis, the Commission, with the contribution of the SG/HR on issues related to political co-operation and the CFSP, will present an overall report to the Council in order to assess globally progress in the implementation of the ENP.

8. The Council invited the Commission, in close co-operation with the Presidency, the SG/HR and, as appropriate, the EUSR for the Middle East Peace Process, on issues related to political co-operation and the CFSP, to finalise exploratory talks on the draft action plans with Jordan, Moldova, Morocco, Tunisia, Ukraine, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The action plans should be consistent with and contribute to meeting the objectives of the EU's overall policies in relation to the partners concerned.

9. Upon completion of these talks, formal proposals for action plans should be submitted before the summer break 2004. Following the Council's approval, the respective Co-operation or Association Councils will be invited to endorse the action plans as soon as possible and to ensure their implementation and monitoring.

10. The Council invited the Commission, with the contribution of the SG/HR on issues related to political co-operation and the CFSP, to begin preparations for action plans with those Mediterranean countries whose Association Agreements with the EU have recently entered into force or which have ratified their Association Agreements. An action plan would be concluded once the respective agreement entered into force.

11. The Council noted that, for the EU's southern neighbours, the ENP should also contribute to achieving the objectives of the EU's Strategic Partnership with the Mediterranean and the Middle East, including resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

12. Concerning the Southern Caucasus, the Council recalled its conclusions of 16 June 2003 and of 26 January 2004 and its continuing interest in promoting stability, democracy and prosperity in this region. The Council noted the recommendations of the European Parliament, the Commission, SG/HR and the EU Special Representative for the Southern Caucasus and decided to include Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the ENP. This marks a significant step forward in the Union's engagement with this region. Each country will be given the same possibility to develop its links with the EU, including through action plans, and will be treated on its individual merits in line with the general policy of the ENP. The Council also invited the Commission, and the SG/HR for issues related to political co-operation and the CFSP, to report on progress made by each country with regard to political and economic reforms.

13. The Council recalled that the EU's goal is for Belarus to become a democratic, stable and prosperous partner. When Belarus has established a democratic form of government, following free and fair elections, the EU will be able to develop contractual links with that country. It will then be possible to extend the full benefits of the European Neighbourhood Policy to Belarus. Meanwhile, the Council underlined the need for free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections. The EU will further strengthen support for civil society, as well as examine possibilities for further supporting the needs of the Belarus population, including addressing the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe, health, education, environment, trans-border and regional co-operation, border management and independent media.

14. On the basis of acceptance of the Barcelona acquis, resolution of all outstanding bilateral issues, including the "La Belle" case and that of the Bulgarian medical workers, with EU Member States and negotiating candidate countries, and the subsequent development of contractual relations with the EU, Libya would be eligible to participate in the ENP.

15. The Council welcomed the suggestion that the implementation of the action plans will be supported through Meda, Tacis and the appropriate budgetary instruments that will succeed them, as well as through a new European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) that will also apply to them, focusing in particular on cross-border and trans-national cooperation. Without prejudice to the position of the Council on the Commission communication on Building our common future: policy challenges and budgetary means of the Enlarged Union 2007-2013 and its related legislative proposals, the Council looks forward to formal Commission proposals on the instruments, expected to be submitted to the Council in July 2004 for consideration. It invited the Commission to pay full attention and take necessary measures to guarantee the consistency and co-ordination between various instruments, which are to contribute to the ENP and the realisation of action plans.

16. The Council noted the Commission's proposal for new European neighbourhood agreements with the countries in the Union's neighbourhood. Consideration will be given in due time to the advisability of any such new contractual arrangements in the context of the ENP. In this regard, consideration could also be given to the level of progress to be achieved in the framework of existing agreements before any negotiations can be envisaged.

Brussels,06 28 2004
European Union
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