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What makes good neighbours?

Posted by Helen Saturday, May 15, 2004

The EU would certainly like to know the answer to that question as it unveils its European Neighbourhood Policy. Günter Verheugen, the Commissioner in charge of Enlargement has announced that the EU wanted to avoid renewed division lines in Europe. Undoubtedly, that is why it has demanded that the new member states in the east strengthen their, or rather, as the EU would prefer it, our borders against the neighbours even further east.

As predicted the EU has decided not to concentrate on countries that lie in the immediate neighbourhood, are very poor and likely to be a problem as they struggle to survive between Russia and the European Union, such as Ukraine, Belarus and Modova. Instead, the Neighbourhood Policy encompasses those countries but also Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and, in the south, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia, as well as the Palestinian Authority.

As these countries are not considered to be on the list of possible entrants into the EU, those who are, such as Turkey and Croatia are not included. But there is no real explanation of the details. Verheugen may say that "a real stake in the enlarged EU so that they too can develop and prosper", but what does that actually mean? What will the EU do to help such disparate countries with such disparate problems?

It seems that the various partner countries will be invited to align their laws and rules to WTO ones and also the EU internal market ones. Whether that will help them remains somewhat doubtful, given how unhelpful the internal market rules have been to the economies inside the EU.

The EU also promises to encourage good governance and human rights – not its strong points in foreign policy – and promote co-operation to combat terrorism and cross-border crime. And, no doubt, motherhood and apple-pie.