The European Neighbourhood Policy: One Year since the Review
by Anna Nadibaidze (December 2, 2016)
In November 2015, the Commission reviewed the strategy, due to the circumstances of the Ukrainian, Syrian, and refugee crises, as well as the multiple security threats facing Europe.
The new ENP has for priority to stabilize the neighbourhood by addressing political, security and economic sources of instability. The EU has become much more realistic and pragmatic in its demands, focusing on the spheres of security and migration. The implementation of the new ENP is mainly based the principles of differentiation and greater ownership, as the EU finally admitted that its neighbors are all different, have various expectations and priorities, and should be more in control of the process.
Taking into consideration the main developments of the last months, the achievements of this new strategy in terms of creating a zone of stability around the EU’s borders have been very limited. In the East, the settlement of the Ukraine conflict shows no progress, and violence erupted multiple times in Nagorno-Karabakh during the last months. In the South, the escalation of the Syrian and the Israel-Palestine conflicts do not allow for stabilization in the region, while refugees continue to flow across European borders. A year after the review, the ENP has not led to the expected results.
Instead, the differentiation and ownership principles have allowed the EU to cooperate with its neighbors according to the lowest common denominator and to ignore many aspects which are crucial in improving the security situations both in the East and in the South. The revised ENP mentions no concrete instruments through which the EU could deal with frozen conflicts. Many of the conflicts in the neighbourhood are rooted in national identity issues. If Brussels continues to refuse to be more active and to explore the dynamics of these issues, it will not manage to stabilize the neighbourhood.
The implementation of the ENP has also been challenged by the fact that so many actors must work together in order to be able to improve the situation in the neighbourhood. The field of migration, cited by the new ENP as a key area to work on, requires cooperation from the Commission, the EEAS, EU member states, other states such as Turkey and the Western Balkans, as well as international organizations such as the UNHCR. Moreover, member states have fundamentally different views of how to deal with threats coming from the neighbourhood. With the amount of crises facing Europe, agreeing on priorities regarding the neighbourhood is becoming more difficult than ever, and this incoherence has threatened the efficiency of the ENP throughout the last months.
In the Lisbon Treaty, the EU commits to “promote its values” and norms such as democracy, good governance and respect for human rights in its foreign policy. For some time, the Union tried to conduct a policy based on “normative power”, but the challenging situation around Europe does not allow for this approach to be successful. The pragmatic and realpolitik approach of the new ENP suggests that the EU progressively understands that it is time to change its foreign policy if it wants to guarantee its security. As Commission President Juncker admitted in his speech to the European Parliament in September, soft power is simply not enough to deal with the “increasingly dangerous neighbourhood”. It is a difficult moment for the Union to try to count on its normative appeal in the countries surrounding it, particularly after Brexit.
The upcoming months could be an opportunity for the EU to consider the option of developing more traditional bilateral relations with its neighbors, without the whole ENP umbrella. The new ENP has acknowledged that the partners are very unequal in terms of financial assistance, agreements and mobility partnership. However, this is not enough, given the crises, the lack of unity among member states and the difficulties of adapting the EU’s foreign policy to meet ‘hard’ security challenges. As it is stated in the Global Strategy of last June, the ENP is not the only way through which the EU can build a stronger relationship with its neighbors. While it is unlikely that Brussels will once again review the policy, it should consider balancing the ENP with a more geopolitical type of relations in order to address security issues more efficiently.
Anna Nadibaidze is Junior Policy Analyst at Bridging Europe
bridging europe services
Want to learn more? Click here
bridging europe membership
Want to learn more? Click here
bridging europe infographics & polls
Want to find our more? Click here