Urgent overhaul is needed to ensure that the EU’s
European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is once again an effective tool for cross-border cooperation
The ENP – which was launched in 2004 to build on common interests and values with the EU’s southern and eastern neighbours and promote political and economic cooperation – has been overtaken by current events. The policy’s "one-size-fits-all" approach has not been able to account for or deal with ongoing fragmentation in both regions, with Da’esh (ISIS) destabilising the southern neighbourhood through terror, while war and Russian diplomatic and military efforts directly target the eastern partnership.
What is needed, says the EESC, is an ENP that addresses the reality on the ground by focusing on regional stabilisation, understanding the priorities and interests of various countries and promoting social and civil dialogue. These key recommendations are contained in a new EESC opinion on the Commission’s recent review of the ENP.
“It is true that the EU has been confronted with disruptive, sometimes dramatic developments in both the southern and eastern neighbourhood. However, lack of vision will not help overcome the deadlock. The EESC suggests defining a new, bold, dynamic ENP agenda, including the prospect of accession to the EU for some partner countries, especially in the East, which have such aspirations and are able and willing to meet the requirements,” says Andrzej Adamczyk, rapporteur for the opinion.
A more proactive, dynamic approach
While the EESC welcomes the Commission’s acknowledgement that stabilisation is the most urgent challenge, and should be the main priority of a new ENP, the Committee wants to see more dynamism and proactive measures in order to prevent and resolve conflicts. Economic development – the main precondition for a stable neighbourhood – must also be prioritised, and should be accompanied by its social and environmental dimensions to ensure that stability in the two regions is sustainable.
The Committee also welcomes the Commission communication’s focus on differentiation, which reflects an acceptance that partner countries in the regions are diverse and have different ambitions and aspirations. Nonetheless, the EU must not compromise its respect for universal human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and the EESC regrets that the need to respect International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards is not mentioned in the communication.
Just as critical is the fact that the communication is silent on the need for greater social and civil dialogue and violations of the "right to association and to freely organise" in the ENP area. There is only a vague reference to the need for deeper engagement with civil society. The EESC stresses the fact that ENP objectives will never be met without the substantial involvement of grassroots organisations. Furthermore, a new, bold, dynamic ENP agenda and efficient and effective cooperation with ENP partners is crucial to helping the EU find a solution to the ongoing refugee crisis.