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European Neighbourhood Policy

1. Background

“Our vision is of an economically integrated area which spans the whole of the EU and its closest European and Mediterranean partners. An area where goods, services and capital flow freely, opening up new possibilities and greater opportunities for us all,” Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a European Neighbourhood Policy Conference in Brussels, in September 2007. She continued, “However, as we all know, economic integration is not a glamorous process. Quite the reverse. Making a reality of free trade throughout this vast geographic area entails an enormous quantity of reforms and sometimes difficult decisions.”

It is in the interest of the European Union to foster stability, prosperity as well as the rule of law and human rights in its own neighbourhood. Supporting the political and economic development in the states just outside EU borders best guarantees peace, security and longterm economic stability and growth for the whole region.

Moreover, after decades of a divided Europe, the EU wants at all costs to avoid creating new dividing lines between its enlarging territory and its neighbours.

For these reasons, the EU reached out to its 16 neighbouring countries and territories in Eastern Europe, in the Caucasus, and around the Mediterranean by developing the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2003-2004.

The European Commission first outlined the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in its Wider Europe Communication in March 2003. A further developed Strategy Paper on the ENP followed in May 2004 and gave the concrete framework of a neighbourhood policy and details on how it should work. The EU Heads of State and Government endorsed the Commission’s strategy paper in June 2004. Furthermore, in December 2006, the Commission presented ideas on the Strengthening of the European Neighbourhood Policy and upgrading it to ENP+. The paper concluded that, as far as neighbourly relations were concerned, the EU should do more in economic and commercial issues, visa facilitation, migration management, people-to-people contacts, political and regional cooperation, and financial support.

Member states gave their own approval of the policy’s success so far in the June 2007 report Strengthening the ENP, Presidency Progress Report. It concluded that, “In the first two years of its implementation, the ENP has already achieved significant results, in particular by helping partners to forge a detailed reform agenda and by providing higher and more effective EU assistance. Still, given the magnitude of the challenges ahead, we must channel Europe’s great modernizing power even more efficiently. Political instability and weak governance in our neighbourhood could impact on the EU. At the same time, risks to Europe’s energy security, environmental threats and rising flows of illegal migration, to name but a few, also have a growing influence on our security and prosperity. The EU, together with ENP partners, must tackle these issues with greater resolve and consolidate a ring of friends around its rims.”

The Commission and the member states have frequently stressed that the ENP should not be seen as a waiting room for EU membership. Even though the policy offers the neighbours of the enlarged EU many opportunities that are similar to those granted to candidates for accession, the glimpse of membership is not necessarily in the horizon – in fact, few of the ENP states themselves have expressed interest in actual membership. Rather, the ENP is a policy that has its own, well-defined aims, tools and measures of success. Cooperation simply brings vital, mutual benefits to all the countries sharing this vast geographical area. In principle, the EU makes the same offer to all its neighbours: money, trade and wide-ranging cooperation in exchange for economic and political reforms. However, the member states differ in their views on how close the EU should let the ENP countries get and which should be the priority areas within the ENP.

According to independent assessments European Policy Centre paper Reassessing the European Neighbourhood Policy the ENP hovers between enlargement and foreign policies of the EU, without being either, has been one of the major problems of the policy. The varied enthusiasm of the member states and the diversity of the countries involved have also created tensions.

In the fall of 2007 the European Commission was actively working to bulk up the ENP, especially in the areas of economic cooperation, energy, migration and technical assistance.

Meanwhile, a Eurobarometer poll published in September 2007 The EU’s relations with its neighbours revealed that, while they see the interest of working together with the partner countries in the ENP, EU citizens are not very interested in their neighbours. More than half of the interviewed (54 percent) had little or no interest in events in countries outside the bloc’s borders. However, with regard to immigration, 62 percent of the respondents expected cooperation with neighbouring countries to decrease illegal immigration into the union.

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