Last month, the European Commission presented its annual assessments of the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), calling the policy a "resounding success". The ENP currently covers 16 countries in the southern and eastern neighbourhood of the EU and aims to offer those partners closer cooperation with the bloc.
Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner introduced plans for an upgrade in the EU's ties with four of these partners through a "targeted deepening of relations".
"Targeted deepening". The four states that will be singled out are Morocco, Ukraine, Moldova and Israel. They are seen by Brussels as the most ambitious of the neighbours and have also gone furthest in achieving the reform goals set out in their ENP Action Plans:
- Ukraine. In February this year, Kiev started negotiations for a free trade area in the framework of its New Enhanced Agreement (NEA). Detailed planning for the NEA started in March 2007.
- Moldova. Ukraine's smaller neighbour Moldova was praised by the Commission for its strong "political will" to carry out political and economic reforms as well as its commitment to resolving the Transnistria conflict.
- Morocco. The Commission already viewed Morocco as a special partner owing to its extensive cooperation with the EU on the fight against terrorism and illegal immigration in recent years. Brussels is now supporting an 'advanced status' for Morocco.
- Israel. A reflection group will also be looking at ways in which Brussels can grant Israel a 'special status' to enhance its involvement in the EU's market and economy. Israel is already well-integrated into the EU research programmes and is the only neighbour to participate in the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme.