Strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy
After eighteen months of implementation, the Commission is taking stock of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), its instruments and results. This assessment shows that the ENP needs strengthening because of the numerous challenges facing the partner countries. The ENP has potential which could be better utilised to build close relations between EU Member States and neighbouring countries and also to create prosperity, stability and security along Europe's borders.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy [COM(2006) 726 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
After eighteen months in operation, the ENP has shown that it offers a solid basis for strengthening ties between the EU and its neighbours.
However, the ENP has potential which could be better utilised to boost its impact. The partner countries are faced with several challenges such as poverty, unemployment, mixed economic performance, corruption, weak governance and frozen conflicts in certain regions.
The EU supports and encourages reforms in partner countries with a view to creating prosperity, stability and security in the region, in our mutual interest. The challenges facing our neighbours often go beyond their borders and also concern the EU. In this regard, the EU and its partners have a mutual interest in stability to help combat illegal immigration, environmental degradation and terrorism and to ensure reliable energy supplies.
The strengths of the ENP
The ENP fosters political progress and lays the groundwork for improved dialogue between the EU and its partners by offering:
- a single, clear framework for integration which covers all aspects of bilateral relations with our neighbours in global and sectoral terms;
- ENP action plans mutually agreed by the EU and the partner country concerned to demonstrate joint and individual ownership. Twelve ENP action plans have been established to date. They lend concreteness to the ENP and enable the focus to be on specific, measurable and time-bound objectives. They are based on partner countries' reform strategies and also offer a working basis for certain international financial institutions (IFI);
- The European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), to provide financial support for the reform process. Its flexibility should allow for better use of funds and should improve results, in particular through instruments such as cross-border cooperation, TAIEX and twinning.
Strengthening the ENP to make full use of its potential.
Full advantage can be taken of the ENP by boosting its resources and by providing an appropriate response to the needs and aspirations of the partner countries. The EU will be repaid for the effort it makes by the political advantages brought by the reforms implemented by the partner countries in their own interest. However, the results of the ENP also depend on the will of the partners which determines the closeness of the relationship with the EU and the level of assistance. The Commission therefore proposed strengthening the policy in December 2006 - the response of the Council is now awaited - by:
Enhancing the economic and trade component, which involves comprehensive and global trade and economic integration. Firstly, the EU supports accessions to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) (for example, Ukraine) and the granting of autonomous trade preferences (for example, Moldova). In the long term, economic integration could go beyond goods and services to encompass comprehensive convergence in trade and regulatory areas (such as technical norms, research, intellectual property rights, company law etc.).
The action plans are excellent means of achieving this and will lead in the medium to long term to a new generation of ambitious and complex, deep and comprehensive free-trade agreements like the one which will be negotiated this year with Ukraine.
They will take into account the impact of trade on sustainable development and will cover products of particular importance to the partner countries. They will be binding. In this connection, the free trade agreements with Mediterranean partners should be extended.
Such agreements will be concluded progressively according to the pace of each country. With a common regulatory basis and a similar degree of market access, the process will, in the long term, favour the emergence of a broader neighbourhood economic community between the EU and its partners as outlined in the Agadir Agreement for the countries around the Mediterranean.
To facilitate mobility and manage migration, procedures for issuing visas for certain categories of trip with a legitimate purpose (business, official or educational) should be simplified. Experience of free movement within the EU shows us that the visa procedures may be an obstacle to mobility even though cooperation is increasing.
Amending these procedures requires an examination of all the issues concerned: illegal immigration, combating trafficking and smuggling in human beings, efficient border management, readmission agreements, return of illegal migrants, and adequate processing of requests for protection and asylum. An appropriate response from the partners to these questions would contribute to simpler and faster procedures and to joint efforts on illegal immigration.
Visa facilitation and readmission agreements go some way towards this while being adapted to the specific needs of each country, as in the cases of Ukraine, Moldova and Morocco. These agreements should in particular concern the countries for which the action plan stipulates a dialogue on the issues of migration and visas. Moreover, developments in the EU in this area such as the creation of a visa information system may also be useful.
Promoting people-to-people exchanges gives the ENP a "human face" distinct from the mobility issue. These involve contact and opportunities for contact between citizens of the EU and the partner countries. They also encourage mutual knowledge and understanding. The ENP will also gain visibility through bilateral programmes and by exchanging information and experience.
Specifically, people-to-people exchanges include:
- educational and youth exchanges, a core element aimed at building bridges and overcoming prejudices within the EU. University cooperation will be supported through the Tempus and Erasmus Mundus programmes and a new scholarship scheme. Modernisation and reforms will benefit from improved political dialogue on higher education. Dissemination and exchange of best practices will enable cooperation and convergence with EU policies such as the Bologna Process. Assistance for education reform will be strengthened, in particular through the European Training Foundation (ETF). A new ENP programme could also be envisaged to promote exchanges among young professionals in the field of culture and the arts, as well as among regulators.
- mobility of researchers to increase scientific cooperation and improve excellence by increasing grants for mobility and information;
- civil society exchanges for economic, social, cultural and inter-cultural purposes to build bridges in many areas (contacts among trade unions, town-twinning, health and NGOs). Cross-border cooperation under the ENPI will be one of the instruments. Furthermore, increased participation by civil society in the reform process will be encouraged;
- strengthening of contacts between firms, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The thematic dimension of the of the ENP requires a multilateral approach for the cross-cutting areas which are of common interest to the EU and all its partners, such as energy, transport, the environment, the information society, research, public health and migration etc.
Besides in-depth scrutiny and debate on each topic, various informal methods of addressing them could also be used, such as ad hoc or more regular ministerial or expert level meetings. The existing multilateral agreements such as the Energy Community Treaty and the aviation agreements could be extended. In general, the purpose of developing a horizontal dimension of the ENP is not to create new institutions but to find ways to boost cooperation with the partner countries in particular areas. Participation by partners in certain programmes and Community agencies is another means of achieving this.
The strengthening of political cooperation will help to resolve conflicts and deal with the associated risks (escalation or an exodus of refugees, interruption of energy supplies or cutting of trade and transport links, the spread of terrorism and organised crime etc.) The security and stability of Europe is at stake and the association of Russia is encouraged.
The EU participates in regional and multilateral conflict resolution in forums such as the Quartet for Peace in the Middle East and in civil or military observation, peace-keeping or border management operations like those in Moldova or Rafah. The stability instrument could strengthen the role of the EU. Moreover, further resources should be devoted to sustainable development.
The ENP offers opportunities through improved dialogue, development support and regional cooperation. It could also provide a basis for the development of other means such as alignment with CFSP Declarations offered to all ENP partners, invitation of partners to briefing and coordination meetings held by international organisations, an informal high-level meeting to launch the enhanced ENP, intensified parliamentary cooperation or a greater EU presence in partner countries (diplomatic missions in Member States and to the European Union, Commission Delegations).
The aim of improving regional cooperation is to take advantage of the potential for dialogue and cooperation at ENP regional level, with the support of the ENPI:
- improved cooperation in the Black Sea region ("Black Sea Synergy"), (Commission communication adopted 11 April 2007) together with a strengthened ENP regional strategy should provide favourable conditions for conflict resolution. All the interested parties, including Russia and Turkey, should be associated. Sectoral issues will be addressed through scientific cooperation, political dialogue or existing regional organisations like the International Commission for the Protection of the Black Sea. The Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation (BSEC) provides a useful platform for closer relations and improved regular dialogue between the EU and the countries concerned. Regional cooperation should take account of other regional initiatives, such as the Baku Initiative in the transport and energy fields.
- in the Mediterranean region, the ENP has just boosted dialogue and regional integration through a Europe-Mediterranean partnership. It inspired the work programme (PDF ) adopted at the 2005 Barcelona Summit and strengthened bilateral relations according to respective situations and interests. The action plans in force have already proved their worth (reforms, progress in sensitive areas, establishment of unitary dialogue on various points, setting of common priorities) and the action plans for Egypt and the Lebanon adopted at the beginning of 2007 provide the ENP with a regional dimension. The ENP will enable synergies to be sought in certain economic sectors, for example with the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The ENP also offers a possibility of strengthening regional cooperation outside the immediate neighbouring area of the EU, with "our neighbours' neighbours" (Central Asia, the Gulf, Africa). Cooperation activities will focus on regional issues of common interest such as energy, transport, migration, infrastructure, peace and security etc., with the support of the ENPI and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). They should also attract investment in development and modernisation of these countries.
Enhanced financial cooperation will be funded by financial instruments which contribute to political objectives, such as, first and foremost, the ENPI, which has replaced the TACIS and MEDA programmes, and will also benefit from the new extended mandate of the European Investment Bank (EIB). With increased assistance, the ENPI provides a flexible framework tailored to the ENP's priorities. Other cooperation instruments will also be available under the ENP, particularly in the areas of human rights, nuclear safety and thematic programmes.
Improvement of coordination between the various donors will help to strengthen financial cooperation. This depends on the mobilisation of investments and looking for synergies between Community funds, Member States and financial institutions
ENPI facilitates the mobilisation of funds through its financing mechanisms based on the priorities identified in the action plans, including:
- The Governance Facility which aims to assist the reform process in partner countries based on their action plan;
- Neighbourhood Investment Fund (NIF). This fund is used to support IFI lending in the Member States. It will allow more coherence and complementarity between Community assistance and that of the Member States.
The ENP was launched to promote good relations between the enlarged EU and its neighbours. To avoid the emergence of new dividing lines, the EU has an interest in promoting prosperity, stability and security among its neighbours by working with them to support their transition. The ENP does not offer the prospect of accession to partner countries but nor does it prejudice the development of relations with the EU.