Friday, May 25, 2007

European Neighbourhood Policy on the occasion of the opening of the SAARC Summit

I wish to convey my strong support to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as the Heads of States and Governments of the organisation are preparing to meet for their fourteenth Summit in New Delhi on 3-4 April 2007.

The European Union, as it celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of its own integration process, sees itself as a natural partner in all efforts aimed at reinforcing regional co-operation, people-to-people contacts and trade liberalisation in South Asia, which will bring benefits to all. The European Commission stands ready to continue to share expertise and experience in all areas of interest to SAARC as well as in the implementation of the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

The central theme of the Summit - "Reconnecting South Asia and the members of SAARC with each other and the larger Asian region" is particularly pertinent. The EU has come a long way to achieve peace, stability and the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital beyond national borders. In recent years, the EU has turned its attention to building a common European foreign, security and defence policy. We realise that by working together more effectively we can better fulfil our potential and contribute to solving global and regional issues.

We hope SAARC will be successful in developing regional co-operation and trade liberalisation. While the majority of its economies are growing rapidly and international trade and investment are increasing, there remain many challenges in encouraging trade within the region. Our own experience shows the importance of this for sustained development and regional integration, and this is indeed one among a number of areas where we are happy to cooperate with the efforts that SAARC is making.

I wish every success to the work of the Summit which, I am sure, will provide a decisive opportunity to advance regional integration in South Asia.

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