Any expansion in the European Union’s assistance for countries in the Middle East and North Africa will depend on the recipients’ progress in implementing democratic reforms, according to a draft document outlining the strategy of the bloc for continued relations with its southern neighbor countries.
“Increased EU support to its neighbors is conditional,” The New York Times quotes the draft, which was prepared by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule. “It will depend on progress in building and consolidating democracy and respect for the rule of law. The more and the faster a country progresses in its internal reforms, the more support it will get from the EU.”
The EU will also encourage MENA countries to strengthen their economic ties to the bloc, Ashton said, according to The New York Times.
The EU is reportedly ready to provide its southern neighbors up to €6 billion ($8.43 billion) in European Investment Bank loans from 2011 to 2013, in addition to assistance from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. EBRD has recently started a reform process that would expand its lending operations to include MENA countries.
The EU is also set to increase the amount of grants it provides to these countries, with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso indicating that he would propose new grants of up to €1.24 billion, on top of the €5.7 billion planned grants through 2014.
Grants provided by the EU to MENA countries beyond 2014 would also be tied to progress on democratic reforms, according to the draft strategy document, The New York Times notes.
The release of the draft strategy coincided with the World Bank’s announcement of its assistance plans for Egypt and Tunisia.
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