The Commission has today recommended an intensification of relations with Egypt and Lebanon, and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, based on Country Reports on all five countries published by the European Commission today. On the basis of these reports, the Council is invited to decide whether to develop Action Plans under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) with the three Southern Caucasus countries: the decision has already been taken to negotiate Action Plans with Egypt and Lebanon, although for Lebanon the timing will depend on the evolution of the political situation. The purpose of these Action Plans will be to define a joint agenda for relations with the EU for the following three to five years, with the objective of deepening political co operation and economic integration.

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Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, commented “For the Neighbourhood Policy, 2005 will be the year of delivery – we will begin implementation of the Action Plans already adopted, develop as soon as possible Action Plans with Egypt, Lebanon, and, I hope, also for the countries of the Southern Caucasus. The challenge for the EU and for our partners will be to turn the commitments and aspirations contained in such Plans into reality, through measurable reforms bringing concrete benefits for our neighbouring countries and their citizens.”

Action Plans have already been negotiated with Israel, Jordan, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Tunisia and Ukraine. The Commission has today adopted Country Reports on five more ENP countries, following developments in each case: for Egypt whose Association Agreement has entered into force; Lebanon, where entry into force is imminent; and for the countries of the Southern Caucasus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, which were added to the ENP in mid-2004.

The Country Reports give a factual analysis of political, economic and institutional reforms in the countries concerned, with a particular focus on areas which would form the basis of any future Action Plans, such as:

Political reform: strengthening democracy, good governance and dialogue on human rights
Economic reform: including promoting a good business and investment climate
Trade, market and regulatory reforms: promoting trade and helping partner countries to integrate into the global trading system, encouraging partner countries to apply the standards of the EU’s internal market
Cooperation in the field of justice, liberty and security: judicial reform and migration issues
Infrastructure networks (energy, transport and telecommunications, information society) and cooperation on the environment
People-to-people contacts: education, research and development, culture, civil society, the opening of certain Community programmes
Addressing challenges and opportunities, bringing added value

The objective of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is to share the EU’s stability, security and prosperity with neighbouring countries in a way that is distinct from EU membership. It is designed to prevent the emergence of new dividing lines in Europe by offering neighbouring countries closer political, security, economic and cultural co-operation.

Pursuing the ENP will call for major economic and political reforms in our partner countries, which the EU will support through financial and technical support, opening of markets and providing access to Community programmes where possible.

For more information on the European Neighbourhood Policy:

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