Guy Verhofstadt, ALDE leader called the European Commission’s Southern Mediterranean Neighbourhood policy “an important step” today but says the challenge now must be to get the Member States to fully support the measures outlined as indicated in the communication -“The ENP should be a policy of the Union with the Member States aligning their own bilateral efforts in support of its overall policy objectives”.

Guy Verhofstadt said “I welcome the announcement by the European Commission today responding to the challenges in our southern and eastern neighbourhood. The real challenge will be to convince the Member States to fully support these proposals especially in relation to market access and mobility. The Council should go one step further and cancel the debts of those emerging democracies in order to give them a real chance to kick-start their economies “.

He continued “The situation in these countries, as we have already witnessed, can change quickly and dramatically. Expectations for change are high so the European Commission should re-evaluate their polices for this region regularly, every four months and look at increasing this funding should more emerging democracies in the region need our support in the future.”

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff MEP (FDP, Germany) ALDE shadow rapporteur on the Eastern Neighbourhood welcomes the efforts made by the Commission to strengthen the ENP based on a new approach in its partnerships with the countries in the immediate neighbourhood. “I welcome the Commission’s Communication and its support for the establishment of a European Endowment for Democracy, provided there is clarity about its competences and future procedures. So far, the proposal is vague and its relation to other instruments like the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights remains undefined. Finally, the European Parliament must be fully involved in the process of setting-up such an endowment.”

Ivo Vajgl MEP (Zares, Slovenia) ALDE shadow rapporteur on the Southern Neighbourhood policy pointed out that an efficient European Neighbourhood policy should also address case by case the existing “frozen” conflicts in the region. “They ask for more direct involvement of the EU in the negotiations which are already taking place, some of them for too long and without a clear vision for a solution. Any of these could quickly turn into a serious crisis.”