Berlin in plans to split EU neighbourhood states
17.07.06 @ 09:57
The EU could downgrade its relations with its partners from the Middle East in reforms mooted by Germany which will take over the EU presidency in the first half of 2007, according to a UK daily.
The move could have an effect on Middle East countries that are currently members of the EU neighbourhood policy (ENP).
The Guardian reports that the German plans intend to split the countries taking part in the current EU neighbourhood policy scheme, separating those that have membership hopes from those who would never be admitted to the EU.
This means that Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and the Palestinian Authority will be given a less prominent position than members who are geographically within Europe.
Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia will be among the countries to be admitted to the more advanced club.
But the German plans have been criticised by European experts believing that the EU must not demote its relations with the 10 non-European members.
"The problems of North Africa are just as important to the EU as those of eastern Europe. It is wrong to tell North Africa that because they are Muslims and live in sandy places, they can't be integrated," Charles Grant, director for the Centre for European Reform, told the Guardian.
But Rolf Welberts, a senior official at the German foreign ministry, defended the plans, arguing that the current neighbourhood policy had not been a success.
"Ukraine should not be treated in the same way as Morocco or Algeria. We think the action plan of the ENP should be replaced with something deeper," Mr Welberts was reported saying by the Guardian.
Mr Welberts added that Ukraine must be offered the hope of EU membership. Otherwise "there is a real risk that Ukraine will turn away," Mr Welberst concluded.
However, Berlin's plans may dash rather than boost the membership aspirations of states like Ukraine.
German politicians have previously mooted ideas for a privileged partnership with Ukraine as well as western Balkan states which would take the form of something between ENP ties and full membership.
These ideas have been widely seen as an alternative, not a step in between, to fully-fledged EU membership.
The European Neighbourhood Policy was developed after the EU's 2004 enlargement, with the objective of avoiding the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged EU and its neighbours.
Under this policy the EU offers its neighbours a privileged relationship.