The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
The European Union's European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) aims at bringing Europe and its neighbours closer, to their mutual benefit and interest. It was conceived after the 2004 enlargement of the EU with 10 new member countries, in order to avoid creating new borders in Europe.
In May 2011, the EU reconfirmed the importance of the relationship with the neighbourhood countries, pledging to strengthen its ‘more funds for more reform’ approach.
The ENP supports political and economic reforms in sixteen of Europe’s neighbouring countries as a means of promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in the whole region. It is designed to give greater emphasis than previously to bilateral relations between the EU and each neighbouring country.
Sixteen countries participate in the ENP, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the occupied Palestinian territory, Syria and Tunisia in the South, and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in the East.
Pioneering principles such as “joint ownership” are promoted through the ENP, and an innovative funding mechanism, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) was launched in January 2007. From 2014, the ENPI will be replaced by the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), an increasingly policy-driven instrument, which will provide for increased differentiation, more flexibility, stricter conditionality and incentives for best performers.
The ENP is not, however, about enlargement, nor does it offer participating countries the possibility of accession. It aims to promote good governance and social development in Europe’s neighbours, through:
- Closer political links
- Partial economic integration
- Support to meet EU standards
- Assistance with economic and social reforms
The EU sees the ENP as a way to build "upon a mutual commitment to common values - democracy and human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development." The level of the relationship depends on the extent to which these values are effectively shared.
Negotiations cover the four ENP action areas to:
- Strengthen the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights
- Promote market-oriented economic reforms
- Promote employment and social cohesion
- Cooperate on key foreign policy objectives such as countering-terrorism and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
The ENP also forms part of the EU's strategy to reinforce security in neighbouring countries.
In a speech in May 2010 marking the five years since the launch of the policy, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle said: “The ENP is a win-win game: the higher our partners’ reform ambitions, the stronger our response. Economic reforms have progressed remarkably across our neighbourhood, both East and South. What is essential for the future is to go up a gear on democratic and political reforms, where progress has been real but generally slower.”
A new response to a changing Neighbourhood
"What we are launching today is a new approach. A partnership between peoples aimed at promoting and supporting the development of deep democracy and economic prosperity in our neighbourhood. This is in all our interests. We will make funding available for countries in our neighbourhood to support and match the speed of political and economic reform they wish to make. Our support is based on partnership, not on imposition. It is a relationship based on mutual accountability which cuts both ways where each side will hold the other to account against agreed goals and objectives.”
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, 25 May 2011
On 25 May 2011, the European Commission launched what it described as a new and ambitious European Neighbourhood Policy, backed by more than €1.2 billion in new funding, bringing the total to almost €7 billion and confirming the EU’s determined and reinforced engagement with its neighbours.
The renewed ENP was the culmination of an extensive review and consultation with governments and civil society organisations both within the EU and in the 16 ENP partner countries to Europe’s South and East.
The main priorities and directions of a revitalised ENP strategy are set out in the Joint Communication by the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, titled A new response to a changing Neighbourhood. It seeks to strengthen individual and regional relationships between the EU and countries in its neighbourhood through a ‘more funds for more reform’ approach – making more additional funds available, but with more mutual accountability.
The renewed ENP further develops the ‘Partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the southern Mediterranean’, agreed in March 2011 in immediate response to the Arab Spring, and also builds upon the Eastern Partnership, launched in 2009.
How the ENP works
A key element of the Neighbourhood Policy is the bilateral ENP Action Plan mutually agreed between the EU and each partner country. The Action Plan sets out an agenda of political and economic reforms with short and medium-term priorities. It is preceded by the Country Report.
The first step - Country Reports
The European Commission first prepares country reports covering the political, economic, social and institutional situation in each country and progress in the implementation of bilateral agreements and reforms. The reports assess when and how it is possible to deepen relations with that country.
These are then sent to the Council of Ministers comprising EU Member State governments to decide if the EU should go ahead with the next stage - the Action Plans.
The European Commission has published country reports for all partner countries, apart from Algeria, Belarus, Libya and Syria. These can be found by clicking here.
The bilateral Action Plans
Once the country reports are published and the Council gives the go-ahead, the EU and each country participating in the ENP agree on an Action Plan. This political document spells out the planned economic and political reforms with short and medium term priorities.
Each country's Action Plan differs reflecting the priorities it has agreed with the EU although all cover the following areas:
- Political dialogue and reform
- Economic and social cooperation and development
- Trade related issues, market and regulatory reform
- Cooperation on justice, liberty and security
- Sectoral issues including transport, energy, information society, environment, research and development
- The human dimension covering people-to-people contacts, civil society, education, public health
In return for progress on relevant reforms, the EU offers:
- greater integration into European programmes and networks
- increased assistance
- enhanced market access
- improved cross border cooperation along the EU's land and maritime borders
Action Plans have been negotiated and formally adopted by all partner countries, apart from Algeria, Belarus, Libya and Syria. These can be found by clicking here.
Implementation of the Action Plans is monitored through sub-committees and progress reports are prepared.
A partnership for reform
The EU describes these Action Plans, which amount to bilateral agreements, as "partnerships for reform" as they are jointly agreed and give each country the possibility to select how far it wants to work with the EU and in what areas.
The partnership is designed to reward progress. In its November 2005 ENP report, the Commission explains: "The Action Plan agreed with each partner is keyed to its particular needs and capacities, in line with the principles of joint ownership. The partnership is designed in such a way as to reward progress with greater incentives and benefits, which are entirely distinct from any prospect of accession. How far and how fast each partner progresses in its relationship with the EU depends on its capacity and political will to implement the agreed priorities."
To find out more about the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), click here
For key ENP policy documents, click here