BRUSSELS -- Senior European Parliament deputies today said the EU must make better use of its neighborhood policy as a foreign-policy tool, RFE/RL reports.
The European Neighborhood Policy, first outlined in 2003, is an EU outreach program for eastern and southern neighbors, with the significant exception of Russia, which wants a separate cooperation framework.
Speaking during a debate in Strasbourg on EU support for regional crossborder cooperation projects, Elmar Brok, a German Christian Democrat, said the EU must recognize that regional policy at its borders "overlaps" with foreign policy -- without "getting bogged down in detail."
"This is not an aggressive act and has nothing to do with spheres of influence," Brok said. "It is a classic opportunity to create a strategy which recognizes that border areas have always been conflict zones -- also within the European Union, helping [the EU] to successfully engage its neighborhood in resolving minority conflicts [and creating stability]."
Evgeni Kirilov, a prominent Bulgarian socialist, said the EU must not be used as a "milk cow" by its neighbors but actively strive to manage conflicts in its neighborhoods. He said continuing to let conflicts fester undermines the EU's broader foreign policy aims.
Brok and a number of other deputies also said the EU strategy for Russia must distinguish it more clearly from other neighbors.