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Neighbourhood Policy - Strategy paper
This document maps out the next steps in the European Neighbourhood Policy. It proposes a list of priorities for incorporation in jointly agreed action plans: political dialogue and reform; trade and measures for gradual integration in the Internal Market; justice and home affairs; energy, transport, information society, environment and research and innovation, social policy and people-to-people contacts.
Communication from the Commission of 12 May 2004, entitled "European Neighbourhood Policy - Strategy paper" [COM(2004) 373 - Not published in the Official Journal]
This is the follow-up to two previous communications in 2003 on "A New Framework for Relations with our Eastern and Southern Neighbours" and on a "New Neighbourhood Instrument". Its aim is to map out the next steps in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
Principles and scope
According to the Commission, the ENP should have a comprehensive, coherent and effective approach. By giving new impetus to cooperation with the new neighbours, it will strengthen stability, security and well-being in the region.
Regarding its geographical coverage, the Commission recommends the inclusion of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia within the scope of ENP. It also proposes, as in the March 2003 communication on a wider Europe, some conditions to be met for fuller integration of Belarus in the ENP. In the present circumstances, the EU's commitments to Belarus will focus on democratic development and support for civil society. The Commission also recommends looking into how Libya could be incorporated into the ENP, but states that integration into the Barcelona process is the first step.
Joint ownership of the process, differentiation between partners and better use of existing instruments are other key points for the Commission. In its opinion, the ENP brings added value through its enhanced and more focused policy approach, the opportunity it creates to attain a significant degree of integration, the encouragement it offers to instigate reform, the incentive to resolve bilateral problems, its clearly defined priorities, its increase in funding and its assistance to partners.
The priorities in the bilateral action plans concluded with each partner will fall into two broad areas: firstly, shared values and foreign and security policy, secondly actions which will bring partner countries closer in a number of priority fields, e.g. economic and social development, trade and the internal market, justice and home affairs, and connections and contacts. The bodies set up under the various agreements will be responsible for monitoring and the Commission will draw up periodic reports to review and adapt the action plans.
Fundamental human rights and freedoms lie behind this policy which is intended to promote a commitment to shared values. Political dialogue will be strengthened through the ENP in the sectors identified in the action plans, with effective multilateralism as the constant goal.
The policy also envisages enhanced preferential trade relations and increased financial and technical assistance, offering the prospect of a stake in the EU internal market. Dialogue and cooperation on the social dimension also need to be enhanced. Issues related to the movement of workers will also continue to be addressed within the framework of the various agreements.
Trade and the internal market are another chapter of major significance. Legislative and regulatory approximation must be pursued and the ENP will provide ways and means to deepen trade liberalisation and regional integration. Regarding trade in goods, administrative cooperation needs to be improved with a view to the gradual elimination of non-tariff barriers. For agricultural products, convergence on sanitary and phytosanitary controls is essential. Lastly, legislative approximation is required in the area of free trade in services. Likewise, the investment climate must be improved, independent competition authorities set up and the tax system modernised and made more transparent.
The functioning of public institutions needs to be improved in order to deal with challenges in the field of justice and home affairs, such as migration pressure, trafficking in human beings and terrorism.
Another key aspect of the ENP is "connecting the neighbourhood". The Commission recommends improving and strengthening energy and transport network connections. The environment, information society and research and innovation are other sectors requiring action for their improvement. The connections do not just need to be physical, but between persons too. Cultural, educational and social links should also be encouraged.
The ENP will be differentiated in its application. To the East, the priorities are:
- reinforced cooperation on the economy, business, employment and social policy, trade and infrastructure;
- environment, nuclear safety and natural resources;
- justice and home affairs;
- people-to-people issues.
In the Mediterranean region, regional and sub-regional cooperation must build on the 'acquis' of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. At regional level, the strategic priorities are:
- South-South integration;
- sub-regional cooperation;
- harmonisation of the regulatory and legislative environment.
The priorities for cooperation in this region are:
- infrastructure interconnections;
- justice and home affairs;
- trade, regulatory convergence and socio-economic development.
Supporting the ENP
Substantial financial support is already channelled through the instruments of the ENP, amounting to a total of roughly EUR 3 700 million between 2000 and 2003. Over the same period, the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) allocated approximately EUR 60 million, while the European Investment Bank provided loans to the Mediterranean countries totalling about EUR 3 400 million. Lastly, macrofinancial assistance and humanitarian aid were provided to third countries facing exceptional needs.
The Commission has proposed to introduce a new set of harmonised instruments for assistance to third countries, including those presently covered by Tacis and MEDA. A recent communication recently also envisaged the possibility of a new neighbourhood instrument. In view of the number of legal and budgetary questions to be resolved, a two-phase approach will be used and the new instrument will not be introduced until 2006. Starting from 2007, it will support cross-border cooperation as well as regional cooperation projects involving all the partner countries. EIB lending capacity will also be reinforced.
Of the three alternatives presented in the July 2003 communication, the strategy paper concludes that the one that best responds to needs is the option of creating a single new regulation to govern a Neighbourhood Instrument to fund activities both inside and outside the Union. In addition, the Commission proposes to use a single budget chapter, drawing on the cohesion and external policies headings for the full amount of the instrument.
In the Commission's view, Article 181a TEC would be the appropriate legal basis. As this article concerns cooperation with third countries, it should allow funding of joint actions. The instrument will build on the principles of existing cross-border programmes such as partnership, multi-annual programming and co-financing. It will cover all borders, support trans-national cooperation involving beneficiaries in at least one Member State and one partner country and replace existing internal and external cross-border programmes.
The new instrument will operate through two separate funding windows. Window One will support cross-border cooperation, with programmes that are primarily bilateral. Window Two will provide more flexible support for wider trans-national cooperation with cooperation mostly focussed on specific themes, e.g. the environment, integration into energy, telecommunication and transport networks, public health and the prevention of and fight against organised crime.
A substantial increase will take place in the budget and provisions will be inserted to allow for reallocation of funds among programmes and projects. This will ensure that obstacles to absorption of funds are eliminated and good performance rewarded.
For more information about the EU neighbourhood policy, please go to the dedicated ENP site.