18 MAY 2011
By Valentina Pop
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Tuesday (17 May) said the bloc's response to events unfolding in the southern neighbourhood is not at all "a marginal activity", citing evacuations from Libya, the opening of an office in Benghazi and humanitarian aid.
Speaking alongside US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Ashton stressed the need to keep "remembering what the European Union is and what it is not, and it's bringing together the 27 member states to support action and activities in a recognition of the principles that we hold dear."
"It doesn't mean that on every issue all 27 countries start or end in the same place. What it does mean is we try and build a common view of where we can make a difference," she explained to US media.
She pointed to the upcoming opening of an EU office in Benghazi, the fact that the Union is the biggest supplier of humanitarian aid - €100 million - in Libya, and the help in evacuating 55,000 people. "I don't think for one moment that that's a marginal activity."
Ashton also explained that she is working on a new strategy to support the southern neighbourhood, based on "three Ms" : money, market access and mobility.
"It's new, it's bigger, it's bolder. It will, I hope, be a recognition that the European Union takes its responsibilities in its neighbourhood seriously. And as I said I think in my second week in this job, Europe should be judged by its effectiveness in its own neighbourhood, and I firmly believe that," Ashton stressed.
As for Clinton, she thanked "Cathy for her friendship and (...) Lady Ashton for her leadership and all of the work that she doing around the world."
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