EU plays trade card with fledgling democracies

Game over, Europe: time to treat neighbours as equal partners

BRUSSELS - The European Commission plans to kick off free trade talks with Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia by late next month, in line with pledges to improve ties with its Arab Spring neighbours.
"We will propose a mandate for negotiations before the end of next month for the four countries concerned," the EU's trade commissioner Karel De Gucht said Monday after talks with European Union trade ministers.
"Concerning Libya, we can wait a while, it will take more time," he said, adding that trade talks launched with the regime of ousted leader Moamer Gathafi would have to be restarted on a different basis.
De Gucht said the talks could take time as "some countries want to wait for new democratically-elected governments to be set up" before striking deals.
Europe in a policy sea-change offered more funds for more reforms to fledgling democracies in its backyard, spawned by the Arab Spring or lying on its eastern flank.
Last June, the European Union offered a "top-to-toe" revamp of its neighbourhood policy, linking aid, better trade, and even visas, to political and economic reform.