The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is one of the European Union’s newest external relations policies, aiming to bring Europe and its neighbours closer, to their mutual benefit and interest. It was conceived after the 2004 enlargement of the EU with 10 new member countries, in order to avoid creating new borders in Europe.

The ENP supports political and economic reforms in sixteen of Europe’s neighbouring countries as a means of promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in the whole region. It is designed to give greater emphasis than previously to bilateral relations between the EU and each neighbouring country.

Sixteen countries participate in the ENP, nine of which are the Mediterranean partners in the Euro-Mediterranean (Barcelona) Process: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria and Tunisia. Libya also participates. The remaining ENP countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Pioneering principles such as ‘joint ownership’ are promoted through the ENP and a new funding mechanism, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) was launched in January 2007.

The ENP is not, however, about enlargement, nor does it offer participating countries the possibility of accession. It aims to promote good governance and social development in Europe’s neighbours, through:

Closer political links
Partial economic integration
Support to meet EU standards
Assistance with economic and social reforms
The EU sees the ENP as a way to build “upon a mutual commitment to common values – democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development.” The level of the relationship depends on the extent to which these values are effectively shared.

Negotiations cover the four ENP action areas to:

Strengthen the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights
Promote market-oriented economic reforms
Promote employment and social cohesion
Cooperate on key foreign policy objectives such as countering-terrorism and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
The ENP also forms part of the EU’s strategy to reinforce security in neighbouring countries.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the External Relations European Commissioner, explained in a speech in March 2006 that the ENP is designed to offer “our eastern and southern neighbours many of the benefits previously associated only with membership, such as a stake in our internal market, involvement in EU programmes, and cooperation in transport and energy networks. It is designed to offer a privileged form of partnership now, irrespective of the exact nature of the future relationship with the EU.”

How the ENP works

A key element of the Neighbourhood Policy is the bilateral ENP Action Plan mutually agreed between the EU and each partner country. The Action Plan sets out an agenda of political and economic reforms with short and medium-term priorities. It is preceded by the Country Report.

The first step – Country Reports

The European Commission first prepares country reports covering the political, economic, social and institutional situation in each country and progress in the implementation of bilateral agreements and reforms. The reports assess when and how it is possible to deepen relations with that country.

These are then sent to the Council of Ministers comprising EU Member State governments to decide if the EU should go ahead with the next stage – the Action Plans.

The European Commission has published country reports for all partner countries, apart from Algeria, Belarus, Libya and Syria. These can be found by clicking here.

The bilateral Action Plans

Once the country reports are published and the Council gives the go-ahead, the EU and each country participating in the ENP agree on an Action Plan. This political document spells out the planned economic and political reforms with short and medium term priorities.

Each country’s Action Plan differs reflecting the priorities it has agreed with the EU although all cover the following areas:

Political dialogue and reform
Economic and social cooperation and development
Trade related issues, market and regulatory reform
Cooperation on justice, liberty and security
Sectoral issues including transport, energy, information society, environment, research and development
The human dimension covering people-to-people contacts, civil society, education, public health
In return for progress on relevant reforms, the EU offers:

greater integration into European programmes and networks
increased assistance
enhanced market access
improved cross border cooperation along the EU’s land and maritime borders
Action Plans have been negotiated and formally adopted by all partner countries, apart from Algeria, Belarus, Libya and Syria. These can be found by clicking here.

Implementation of the Action Plans is monitored through sub-committees and progress reports are prepared.

A partnership for reform

The EU describes these Action Plans, which amount to bilateral agreements, as “partnerships for reform” as they are jointly agreed and give each country the possibility to select how far it wants to work with the EU and in what areas.

The partnership is designed to reward progress. In its November 2005 ENP report, the Commission explains:

The Action Plan agreed with each partner is keyed to its particular needs and capacities, in line with the principles of joint ownership. The partnership is designed in such a way as to reward progress with greater incentives and benefits, which are entirely distinct from any prospect of accession. How far and how fast each partner progresses in its relationship with the EU depends on its capacity and political will to implement the agreed priorities.