Towards a more peaceful European Neighbourhood
by Ludovic Terren (May 5, 2015)
Although the ENP achieved some level of success in former communist states, and while not saying that it could realistically have the necessary reach to solve all the crises in the EU’s neighbourhood, the situation over the past few years in North Africa and the Middle East – characterised by popular revolutions, insecurity, extremism and violence – has raised serious doubts about the adequacy of this external policy and the way it has so far been implemented.
The gap between its stated objectives and its actual outcome is considerable. Indeed, the policy was supposed to establish “an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation”, as stated in article 8 of the EU treaty.
So what is it that went wrong and how could we build on these mistakes to improve this policy and better promote peace and stability across the EU’s neighbourhood?
Some of the ENP’s failures can be attributed to a lack of accountability, corruption oversight, mismanagement, member states disengagement and an over-emphasis on governments and elites, to the detriment of civil society.
While the EU claims its financial assistance is subject to strict control and delivery mechanisms, independent auditors have on more than one occasion signalled that the Commission couldn’t properly account for the money it had allocated, often due to local corruption as well as lacking accountability and monitoring mechanisms. Here is a striking example; in 2006-2007, under MEDA II (ENP’s precursor), the EU allocated €40 million to the Palestinian territories to support power supplies and other essential public services. However, the project’s evaluation has no record of what happened to the funding: it states “We do not have the documentation to record disbursements”.
One way to improve monitoring and make sure that the funding reaches its targets would be to rely on voluntary member states contributions instead of the EU’s central budget, like the European Development Fund (EDF). This would certainly strengthen accountability as each member states would be more engaged and would put significant pressure for the money to be well spent.
Another problem with the ENP has been its over-emphasis on governments and elites and its questionable minimum conditions of governance and good administration to deal with different countries. Indeed, how can we explain that the now toppled Tunisian and Egyptian regimes passed the democracy and corruption requirements and received large amounts of direct aid funding while their citizens took to the streets to rebel against these regimes on the grounds that they were corrupted and undemocratic?
The ENP also showed naivety in that some of its goals were simply incompatible and self-defeating. Let’s put it this way: in the case of Egypt for example, promoting stability and security meant supporting Mubarak, while promoting democracy and transparency meant opposing him.
As these examples suggest, not only does the EU need stricter criteria to allocate budget support for governments but it needs to increase its focus on civil society to allow the empowerment of local communities and promote a culture of peace and human rights. Civil society organisations must be given a greater role in the monitoring process which will further their ability to check for government excesses.
Last but not least, the ENP must acknowledge the centrality of peace as a pre-condition for development and fit it into its priority scale. No democracy, human rights or justice are possible in the absence of peace. In conflict-prone regions of the EU neighbourhood, the ENP should further support a civil society willing to work on the transformation of adversarial relations into integrative processes as well as the development of counter moral and ethical discourses which could progressively break the cycle of violent conflict as a social continuity and promote a conception of peace that is based on communication and collaboration towards problem-solving. There is an urgent need for a self-reflexive process in which parties to a conflict move away from a context of blame and onto recognising their conflict as a shared problem to which there is a peaceful solution.
Be that as it may, in light of the democratic impetus that was the Arab Spring and the opening up of new possibilities for peace and stability in the region, some level of optimism can be justified.
If well managed and administered, a carefully revised European Neighbourhood Policy programme could progressively contribute to establishing the right conditions for peace and ultimately promote a more peaceful European neighbourhood.
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