EU Includes South Caucasus Countries in Neighborhood Policy

BRUSSELS (Armenpress/EurActiv.com)–The European Union (EU) this week formally included Georgia–Armenia and Azerbaijan in its European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The move does not open the door to EU membership–officials studiously avoid speculation–saying simply membership is "not on the agenda." However–the new neighborhood initiative could–over the next decades–lead to free trade–substantial aid gran’s–and extensive political dialogue with the EU.

EU foreign ministers hailed the decision–passed by EU’s External Relations Council in Luxembourg on June 14–as a "significant step forward in the Union’s engagement with this region."

The ENP’s goal is to create circumstances that will allow Europe and its neighboring countries to "share the benefits of an enlarged EU."

Armenia–Azerbaijan and Georgia will be given equal opportunity to develop links with the EU–and be allowed to submit Action Plans aimed at bolstering reforms. The plans–which must last a minimum of three years and promote regional cooperation–will be assessed based on individual merits–and in conformity to general ENP policy.

The EU also identified Russia as a key partner in the bloc’s new strategy of upgrading political and economic relations with its neighbors.

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