Eiropas kaimiņu politika – visu nosaka prioritātes

26. August, 2012


Mor Sobol

Foto: osiatynska

Vājas iniciatīvas, nepietiekams finansējums un savdabīgs valstu sajaukums. Šie ir galvenie kritikas argumenti, kas vērsti pret Eiropas kaimiņu politiku. Eiropas Savienības centieniem ietekmēt situāciju ārpus tās robežām tomēr vēl ir potenciāls. Kas jāmaina, lai Eiropas kaimiņu politika būtu efektīva? Raksts angļu valodā.

The European Neighbourhood Policy has as much potential as it has problems. The bottom line is that no matter how many times the EU tries to redesign the policy – without EU member states aligning their interests not only with each other but also with those of the European Commission – the Neighbourhood Policy is doomed to fail.
In order to understand the development of the European Neighbourhood Policy and its shortcomings, we need to look at EU member states’ interests as well as examine the interaction between the member states and the European Commission.[1]

What is the European Neighbourhood Policy? The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was introduced by the EU in May 2004, and is one of the most advanced and important foreign policies the EU has at its disposal. Its main objective is “the mutual interest of the EU and its neighbours in promoting reform, the rule of law, stable democracies and prosperity…throughout the neighbourhood of the enlarged European Union”.[2] The ENP’s geographical scope covers the following countries: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.

Action plans are the main instruments under the framework of the ENP. They are political documents that are negotiated between the EU and the ENP partners.[3] During the negotiations, the EU and the partner country define a set of priorities, key areas and specific actions, which will enable it to integrate more closely to the EU. The action plans are broad in scope and cover a wide range of policy areas; among those we can find justice and home affairs, trade, energy, transport, environment and social policy.

In essence, the ENP consists of an offer and a price. On the one hand, the EU offers its neighbours closer integration and on the other hand the neighbouring countries have to implement social, economic and political reforms.

What went wrong?

Since its establishment, the ENP has been subject to extensive criticism by academics and policy- makers alike. Weak incentives, a strange mix of countries (Eastern Europe with Southern Mediterranean countries), insufficient financial resources and inadequate use of conditionality; are just a few examples which are used to criticize EU’s attempt to influence its neighbourhood.

One of the main reasons for EU’s difficulties in implementing the ENP is the inability of EU member states to agree on priorities to define a course of action. An excellent example is the question of future enlargement where we could differentiate between member states that are against offering a European membership perspective to ENP’s Eastern partners (Spain, Italy and France), pro-enlargement (Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Hungary), and member states (Finland, Austria and Sweden), which favour an ‘open door’ policy. A second and related example is member states’ geographical orientation. Among other factors, historical and cultural ties, trade relations and geographical proximity, can be used to identify member states as South-oriented (for example, Spain) or East-oriented (for example, Poland). As such, member states try to promote and defend their geographical interests during EU regular meetings, discussions and intergovernmental negotiations. A final example is the issue of conditionality. For instance, the UK and Hungary encourage strong emphasis on political conditionality whereas for Italy (and to some extent Spain), conditionality only plays a secondary role.[4]

We have different member states with different interests that compete with each other for placing their priorities on the European agenda.

So we have different member states with different interests that compete with each other for placing their priorities on the European agenda. But what about the European Commission? Does the Commission have its own agenda that it tries to pursue or is it an obedient servant which follows member states’ instructions?
In order to answer these questions, we should go back to the origins of the ENP. January 2002 usually marks as the beginning of the process that led to the creation of the ENP. The United Kingdom was concerned about the situation in Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine and thought that the EU should offer these countries some incentives in return for economic and political reforms. Following pressure from Sweden and South-oriented member states the geographical scope was extended. The Commission in general and Commission’s President, Romano Prodi, in particular, were also strong supporters to the inclusion of the South to the new initiative. In fact, it is evident that even before 2002 Prodi emphasized the importance of forming an initiative towards EU’s neighbourhood. For instance, in a speech on 19 January 2001, Prodi stated that “we must develop solid co-operation with our new neighbours – ideally a single strategic partnership with all the regions on our new borders”.[5]

The Commission became more active during the formulation process of the ENP (2003-2004). Since the Council and its member states were preoccupied with the negotiations and preparations for the 2004 enlargement, the Commission essentially had a free hand to design the policy according to its own preferences and placed itself as the main actor in the ENP. Also, building on the success of enlargement and due to the fact that most of the Commission’s personnel that worked on the ENP’s design had previously worked in DG Enlargement, the ENP is largely based on the enlargement experience and many of its instruments (for example, progress reports and technical assistance programmes) were used in the pre-accession process.[6]

Interestingly enough, if during the formulation process of the ENP the Commission enjoyed the fact that the member states were busy with accession negotiations and did not exert much effort in soliciting member states’ input; since the introduction of the ENP, the Commission has faced major difficulties to have the member states on board. In fact, the Commission was not too shy to publicly criticise the member states for their lack of political and financial commitment. For instance, in December 2006, the Commission argued that in order to strengthen the ENP OOO “member States will need to play their part – the enhancements proposed here will require both full political commitment and a commensurate economic and financial commitment”.[7] Since the Commission does not have the legal competences to force the member states to implement the action plans, the above statement (and others) could be seen as political pressure. The member states are well aware that the Commission is dissatisfied with their reluctance to open their markets and borders to the ENP partners. Still, officials from both the Commission and the member states’ representations maintain that this pressure does not have any effect whatsoever.

As a result of member states’ dissatisfaction with the current arrangements, they try, on some occasions, to influence EU foreign policy towards the neighbourhood by offering initiatives that correspond to their national interests.

Alternatively, as a result of member states’ dissatisfaction with the current arrangements, they try, on some occasions, to influence EU foreign policy towards the neighbourhood by offering initiatives that correspond to their national interests. In 2008, this was the case both towards the South with the French endeavour (the Union for the Mediterranean) and towards the East,with the joint proposal of Sweden and Poland (the Eastern Partnership). The problem is that as member states disagree over the future courses of action, the end result is the formulation of policies, which not only add to the institutional complexity of EU relations with its neighbours, but also initiatives that lack any substantial added value as they are stripped of their original aspiration to modify the ENP. What is more, the Commission is left with the agonising task of trying to integrate the new regional policies into existing EU frameworks, and it is supposed to sell these policies to the partners as ‘new’ and ‘innovative’.

The Commission is left with the agonising task of trying to integrate the new regional policies into existing EU frameworks, and it is supposed to sell these policies to the partners as ‘new’ and ‘innovative’.

What to expect?

In sum, both the Commission and the member states agree that the EU should be more involved in the neighbourhood; not only because they want to create stability in the neighbourhood and by thereby protect the EU, but also to establish EU’s role as a global player.However, regardless of the strong rhetoric being used to emphasize EU’s commitment to the neighbourhood and various attempts to revise the ENP, it would seem that EU member states prioritise other interests rather than to invest in the neighbourhood; be it the preparation for enlargement in 2002-2004, the reform treaty in the first years of the implementation of the ENP or the recent financial and Euro-zone crises. So long as the member states (a) will not consider the neighbourhood as a top priority, (b) will not reach an agreement regarding final goals of the ENP, both towards the East and the South, and (c) give the necessary political and financial backing to the Commission; there is no reason to assume that the ENP will accomplish its objectives.


[1] This article is based on current research of this author on the development of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Part of the data presented here is based on interviews which were conducted in Brussels in June 2012.
[2] ENP Website
[3] Until the first generation of neighbourhood agreements have been signed and ratified, the legal basis of relations between the EU and its neighbours is based on previous agreements – the Association Agreements for the Southern neighbours and the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements for the Eastern partners.
[4] More on national positionssee Lippert B. (2007) ‘The Discussion on EU Neighbourhood Policy – Concepts, Reform Proposals and National Positions’. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung,
[5] Prodi R. ‘After Reform: a future strategy for Europe as a whole’, Speech at the International Bertelsmann Forum “Europe without borders”, Speech/01/14 (Berlin: 19.01.2001), p.2, emphasis in original
[6] Kelly J. (2006) ‘New Wine in Old Wineskins: Policy Adaptation in the European Neighbourhood Policy’. Journal of Common Market Studies 44:1, pp. 29-55, .More on the ENP and enlargement in Magen A. (2006) ‘The shadow of enlargement: can the European Neighbourhood policy achieve compliance?’ The Columbia Journal of European Law 12: 2, pp. 383-427,
[7] European Commission, ‘On strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy’ Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European parliament, COM (2006) 726 final (Brussels: 04.12.2006), pp. 14, emphasis added, raksts

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