The European Economic and Social Committee supports the general and specific objectives of the proposal and considers that the move to streamline the instruments used in relation to neighbourhood and third countries is welcome and useful. The EU must build a constructive, realistic and pragmatic relationship with the neighbourhood and third countries, in which values should remain central.
The Committee notes the determination of the Commission and the other European institutions and the Member States, to support the development of civil society, democracy and human rights protection systems. The functioning of the new consolidated instrument should be, in all the phases, from planning to monitoring and evaluation, geared to promote EU values, including the rule of law, integrity, pluralism, democracy and protection of human rights. In this context, the Committee urges the European Commission to significantly increase the allocation for the human rights and democracy, and civil society thematic programmes.
Streamlining and unifying the instruments used constitutes a big step forward towards efficient, priority-oriented action in pursuit of the proposed objectives. The Committee welcomes the move in this proposal to reduce the administrative burden on the EU institutions and the Member States and focus more on the political objectives and the commitment to external partners. The Committee welcomes and supports the significant advances put forward in the proposal: greater simplification and flexibility and better monitoring of results.
Neighbourhood and third countries face a number of major, diverse and overlapping problems. In the current global climate, in which reforms promoting democratisation, political stabilisation and economic development appear to have stalled, the EU must step up its efforts rather than abandoning them. It should maintain permanent contact with the governments of neighbouring and third countries, pushing and encourage them to cooperate responsibly. Its partnership-based relations with these governments should be solid, assertive and firmly geared towards improving the living conditions of the people living there.
The Committee encourages the European Commission to build on the gains and advances made with the preceding instruments, for example, the Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. The civil society organisations fighting for freedom, democracy, human rights and fair electoral processes were supported despite the hostile attitude of some governments towards them. This commitment should be maintained and advanced.
In regard to the European Instrument for Nuclear Safety, after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, it became perfectly clear that the problems and risks of using nuclear energy are global. Unfortunately, the proposal does not engage at strategic and political level with the legitimate demand for long-term planning for nuclear energy coming from citizens, civil society, and the business sector.
The Committee welcomes the intention of the Commission to include activities in the nuclear field that are in line with the development and international cooperation policy for health, agriculture, industry and social projects addressing the consequences of any nuclear accident. However, it is not clear how the budget available and the institutional settings in place are able to deliver on this intention in practice.
Considering the key global challenges related to nuclear energy, and the presence of a high number of nuclear energy sites in its neighbourhood, the Committee sees the projected financial envelope for the implementation of this Regulation for the 2021 – 2027 period of EUR 300 million in current prices as highly insufficient.