EU Assistance Boost to Neighborhood Countries

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–The European Commission has just committed more than 1,4 billion euros from its 2007 Budget for assistance to 17 countries along the Eastern and Southern border of the EU, the Delegation of the European Commission to Armenia’said today in a press release.
It said with these funds, concrete actions will be financed in key areas, including good governance, education, energy and the social welfare. The aim is to avoid new dividing lines along the EU’s external borders and strengthen the prosperity, stability and security of the entire region.
Under the new ENPI (European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument), the substantial assistance package offered to the 17 countries is tailor-made and adapted to their different needs.
Energy sector reform will be supported for example in Ukraine or Azerbaijan, with particular attention to energy efficiency and sustainability. Poverty reduction is the focus of EC support to Moldova, concentrating on the reform of the social assistance sector.
Fighting unemployment is the principal concern for assistance to Armenia, where the EC contributes to the development of vocational education and training.
In Georgia, an example for EC support is a rehabilitation program in the Georgian/Abkhazian conflict zone, and assistance to public finance management reforms to enhance good governance.
As for the southern countries-two of which are Morocco and Egypt–an important part of the bilateral annual 2008 budget for the ten eligible countries is being devoted to the social sector, including reform for basic public services such as, health and education.
Support for political and economic reforms, employment, competitiveness and trade are priority objectives for Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan and Syria. Governance, regulatory framework, and capacity building actions as well as growth and sustainable development including local development actions will also be implemented in most of the southern countries.
A number of activities will also be funded at a regional level to tackle challenges of common concern. Projects in the energy and transportation area will include the development of trans-national transport corridors and the integration of energy markets. Support to border management, as well as the Partnership for Peace program in the Middle East Peace Process will continue.
Other initiatives will concern the promotion of gender equality, the dialogue between cultures in the Mediterranean region, or the creation of a platform for exchange with media professionals. Investment promotion also remains a priority.
Over the budgetary period 2007-2013, approximately 12 billion euros in EC funding will be available to support these partners’ reforms, an increase of more than 30 percent in real terms. The ENPI follows up on the TACIS and MEDA programs and has been designed for greater coherence, flexibility and efficiency.
It also includes new tools like the Twinning Facility (administrative reforms in cooperation with EU administrations). Another component is Cross-Border Cooperation along the EU’s external border, which has been renewed and brings real meaning to the concept of neighborhood.

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