JOINT COMMUNICATION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
A new response to a changing Neighbourhood
To the East and South of the European Union (EU) lie sixteen countries (1) whose hopes and futures make a direct and significant difference to us. Recent events have brought this into sharper relief, highlighting the challenges we face together. The overthrow of long-standing repressive regimes in Egypt and Tunisia; the ongoing military conflict in Libya, the recent violent crackdown in Syria, continued repression in Belarus and the lingering protracted conflicts in the region, including in the Middle East, require us to look afresh at the EU’s relationship with our neighbours. The encouraging progress made by other neighbours, for example by Republic of Moldova in its reform efforts, Ukraine in the negotiations of the Association Agreement or Morocco and Jordan in their announcement of constitutional reform, need also to be supported. The Lisbon Treaty has allowed the EU to strengthen the delivery of its foreign policy : co-operation with neighbouring countries can now be broadened to cover the full range of issues in an integrated and more effective manner. This was a key driver for initiating a review, in consultation with partner countries and other stakeholders, of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in summer 2010. Recent events throughout the Southern Mediterranean have made the case for this review even more compelling. The EU needs to rise to the historical challenges in our neighbourhood.
Since its inception in 2004, the ENP has promoted a variety of important initiatives, particularly on the trade and economic front, which have allowed the EU and its neighbours to develop stronger relationships in virtually all policy fields, from energy to education, from transport to research. These are now the subject of exchanges and co-operation between the EU and its neighbours. EU assistance has increased and is better targeted. But there is room for improvement on all sides of the relationship.
Recent events and the results of the review have shown that EU support to political reforms in neighbouring countries has met with limited results. There is for example a need for greater flexibility and more tailored responses in dealing with rapidly evolving partners and reform needs – whether they are experiencing fast regime change or a prolonged process of reform and democratic consolidation.
Co-ordination between the EU, its Member States and main international partners is essential and can be improved.
A new approach is needed to strengthen the partnership between the EU and the countries and societies of the neighbourhood: to build and consolidate healthy democracies, pursue sustainable economic growth and manage cross-border links.
The ENP should be a policy of the Union with the Member States aligning their own bilateral efforts in support of its overall political objectives. Equally, the European Parliament has a central role to play in helping to deliver some of its central objectives. And beyond that, the ENP should serve as a catalyst for the wider international community to support democratic change and economic and social development in the region.
This partnership with our neighbours is mutually beneficial. The EU is the main trading partner for most of its neighbours. Sustainable economic development and job creation in partner countries benefits the EU as well. Likewise, managed movement of people is positive for the entire neighbourhood, facilitating the mobility of students, workers and tourists, while discouraging irregular migration and human trafficking. Active engagement between the EU and its neighbours in areas such as education, strengthening and modernising social protection systems and advancing women's rights will do much to support our shared objectives of inclusive growth and job creation.
The new approach must be based on mutual accountability and a shared commitment to the universal values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It will involve a much higher level of differentiation allowing each partner country to develop its links with the EU as far as its own aspirations, needs and capacities allow. For those southern and eastern neighbours able and willing to take part, this vision includes closer economic integration and stronger political co-operation on governance reforms, security, conflict-resolution matters, including joint initiatives in international fora on issues of common interest. In the context of the southern Mediterranean, the Commission and the High Representative have already laid out their proposal for a Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity (2) with such partners.
The new approach, as described above, aims to:
(1) provide greater support to partners engaged in building deep democracy – the kind that lasts because the right to vote is accompanied by rights to exercise free speech, form competing political parties, receive impartial justice from independent judges, security from accountable police and army forces, access to a competent and non-corrupt civil service — and other civil and human rights that many Europeans take for granted, such as the freedom of thought, conscience and religion ;
(2) support inclusive economic development – so that EU neighbours can trade, invest and grow in a sustainable way, reducing social and regional inequalities, creating jobs for their workers and higher standards of living for their people ;
(3) strengthen the two regional dimensions of the European Neighbourhood Policy, covering respectively the Eastern Partnership and the Southern Mediterranean, so that we can work out consistent regional initiatives in areas such as trade, energy, transport or migration and mobility complementing and strengthening our bilateral co-operation ;
(4) provide the mechanisms and instruments fit to deliver these objectives.
The partnership will develop with each neighbour on the basis of its needs, capacities and reform objectives. Some partners may want to move further in their integration effort, which will entail a greater degree of alignment with EU policies and rules leading progressively to economic integration in the EU Internal Market. The EU does not seek to impose a model or a ready-made recipe for political reform, but it will insist that each partner country’s reform process reflect a clear commitment to universal values that form the basis of our renewed approach. The initiative lies with the partner and EU support will be tailored accordingly.
Increased EU support to its neighbours is conditional. It will depend on progress in building and consolidating democracy and respect for the rule of law. The more and the faster a country progresses in its internal reforms, the more support it will get from the EU. This enhanced support will come in various forms, including increased funding for social and economic development, larger programmes for comprehensive institution-building (CIB), greater market access, increased EIB financing in support of investments ; and greater facilitation of mobility. These preferential commitments will be tailored to the needs of each country and to the regional context. They will recognise that meaningful reform comes with significant upfront costs. It will take the reform track record of partners during the 2010-12 period (based on the annual progress reports) into account when deciding on country financial allocations for 2014 and beyond. For countries where reform has not taken place, the EU will reconsider or even reduce funding.
The EU will uphold its policy of curtailing relations with governments engaged in violations of human rights and democracy standards, including by making use of targeted sanctions and other policy measures. Where it takes such measures, it will not only uphold but strengthen further its support to civil society. In applying this more differentiated approach, the EU will keep channels of dialogue open with governments, civil society and other stakeholders. At the same time and in line with the principle of mutual accountability, the EU will ensure that its resources are used in support of the central objectives of the ENP.
The resources that the EU and its international partners are mobilising in support of the democratic transitions in the neighbourhood must cover both the immediate and urgent needs as well as the medium- and longer-term requirements.
See the full text : PEV com 11 303 en
(1) The European Neighbourhood includes Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, the Republic of Moldova, Morocco, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.
(2) COM (2011) 200 of 8.03.2011.