Progress in relations between the EU and seven Southern Neighbours: Commission releases new reports
The individual reports on progress in relations between the European Union and seven of its Neighbours in the South, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the occupied Palestinian territory and Tunisia, have been released by the European Commission. These documents cover progress made on the implementation of each country’s ENP Action Plan (AP) between 1 January and 31 December 2010.
Two other reports have been made public by the Commission, on assessing what has been achieved in the various cooperation sectors (sectoral report), and a follow-up to its 8 March Communication on ‘A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean’.
All reports, not only for the Neighbours in the South but also the five Neighbours in the East and progress in the Eastern Partnership, were released on 25 May together with the EC’s landmark Communication – A new response to a changing Neighbourhood – launching a “new and ambitious” Neighbourhood policy.
An introduction and links to all available reports follows:
While this document reports on progress in 2010, developments outside this period are taken into consideration, in particular the popular demonstrations that started on 25 January 2011 and led in February to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and the establishment of temporary rule by the army.
On the whole, Egypt's progress in the implementation of the Action Plan in 2010 was concentrated in the areas of trade and economic reform. There was no progress on political and social reforms, according to the report.
The mass demonstrations of January 2011 and the ensuing departure of former President Mubarak have opened a period of deep change for Egypt. Commitments made by the temporary government have started addressing several of the political issues that have been a constant obstacle to deepening EU-Egypt relations. If these changes are consistently translated into action during and beyond the transition period, Egypt could go a long way towards meeting the objectives put forward in the AP. Security sector reform and enhanced civilian control over enforcement agencies will be particularly critical, the report says.
There was no significant progress towards a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the report states. Following the Israeli government’s decision to allow the ten-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank to expire in September, direct negotiations between the two sides came to a halt. On expiry of the moratorium, settlement activity resumed. Although Israel did take steps to ease restriction on movement in the West Bank, further efforts are needed. The Israeli government’s June decision to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip brought about some improvements as regards imports of goods. The government’s decision in December 2010 to allow some additional exports in the future has not yet been enforced.
Against this background, the EU did not resume the process of upgrading relations in 2010. At the Association Council the EU agreed to explore further with Israel any opportunities still offered by the 2005 ENP AP – which remains the reference document of EU-Israel bilateral relations – and pursue technical talks to identify areas for potential cooperation in the future. The validity of the AP has been extended by mutual consent until June 2011.
The ninth EU-Jordan Association Council’s meeting announced political agreement on the ‘advanced status’ partnership and the conclusion of technical negotiations on the new EU-Jordan ENP AP, the report recalls. The ‘advanced status’ reflects the ambitious character of the partnership based on the overarching objective of promoting peace, stability and prosperity and on the core values shared by Jordan and the EU, i.e. the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights. Jordan is the second ENP partner country (after Morocco) with whom the EU has agreed an ‘advanced status’ partnership, but it is the first one to have concluded the negotiations for a new ENP AP.
Towards implementation of the AP, progress included the adoption of legislation which strengthens women’s rights when divorcing, and the recent amendment of the Public Gatherings Law, allowing rallies to take place without prior authorisation of a governor. In other areas, two concrete achievements were the signing of a comprehensive air services agreement leading to a gradual opening-up of these markets (first country in the Near East to reach such a comprehensive Agreement with the EU) and the signing in February 2011 of the Protocol for Dispute Settlement in bilateral trade.
As in the previous year, 2010 was marked by very slow progress on political, economic and social reforms, the report said. The controversy over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, tasked with investigating the killing of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, increased during 2010. It polarised the Lebanese political arena and paralysed the functioning of key institutions including the parliament and cabinet. This development hindered the advancement of the reform agenda, and led to the collapse of the Lebanese Government in January 2011.
The Lebanese economy performed well in 2010 despite the global financial crisis. Important economic problems remain, and overall, progress on structural reforms was limited. Most of the commitments made at the Paris III donor conference in 2007, some of which are also part of the AP (e.g. restructuring public utilities and privatisations), are still pending.
In 2010, the implementation of the AP has suffered from many situational and structural obstacles, according to the report. Due to the political impasse, the Lebanese parliament was not able to adopt a significant number of laws, which are essential for the implementation of the ENP AP.
EU-Morocco relations progressed in 2010, marked by the Grenada Summit, the meeting of the joint parliamentary committee, the signature of accords in the fields of agriculture and the settlement of disputes, as well as the memorandum on the participation of Morocco in EU agencies and programmes.
On the economic front, the government pressed ahead with the implementation of structural reforms, and achieved progress on education and literacy, though social challenges remain significant.
On democracy and fundamental freedoms, the picture is mixed in 2010. Some of the issues raised have been the subject of reforms subsequently announced in 2011, such as greater independence of the judiciary and implementation of the recommendations of the Equity and Reconciliation Commission – both covered by the constitutional revision undertaken in March 2011. The report underlines the importance of judicial reform, the fight against corruption, restrictions to the freedom of the press and of assembly, and the need to draw up a new press code.
The occupied Palestinian territory
Work has started on a new Action Plan, which is expected to be concluded in 2011. Throughout the reporting period, the EU continued to support the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a view to contributing to the implementation of the two-state solution. The reformist agenda of the government is producing good results, and the PA has made steadfast progress in building its capacity to run the future State of Palestine, the report notes.
Progress in many areas (governance, public finance management) was achieved in a context of occupation, where Israeli incursions into areas formally under the control of the PA continued. There has also been some progress on the rule of law. Concerns about human rights violations, in particular by the security forces, have not declined and further efforts are needed to strengthen the judiciary. There was also progress in the implementation of the structural reforms set out in the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan, and reflected in the AP, in particular on improving financial accountability and on sound management of public finances.
The achievements of the state-building agenda of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s government need to move ahead in parallel with progress in the political process. The latter looks increasingly difficult especially in view of renewed settlement construction in the West Bank and recent developments in East Jerusalem.
While this document reports on progress in 2010, developments outside this period are taken into consideration, in particular the events of January 2011 that led to the departure of the former President and the establishment of a new transitional government.
On democracy and human rights, the government of former President Ben Ali in 2010 took a number of measures that went against the aims established by the Action Plan, in particular regarding the freedom of association and expression. The new government, however, immediately took action to reverse these measures and free up political life, and AP objectives can now expect to be fully achieved, allowing ambitious new aims to be set in the new AP enabling Tunisia to achieve Advanced Status.
The year 2010 saw an export driven economic recovery, with the government maintaining a prudent budgetary policy, in line with its ENP AP. Progress on improving competitiveness and economic performance was limited, and significant economic disparities remain in the country, with weak job creation, especially for young graduates.
Sector Progress Report
An overview of ENP partners’ progress, in 2010, on a range of sectoral policies such as: employment; social policy; trade and trade related matters; justice and home affairs issues, including migration, mobility and security; transport; environment; climate change; energy; student mobility; education, culture and health. Strengthening sector dialogue and cooperation with ENP partners is vital to achieving ENP objectives of deepening political dialogue and cooperation and to achieve a very substantial degree of economic integration.
Sector dialogue supports the ongoing, longer-term, deep reform process of partners. Sector reform contributes to greater prosperity for all citizens including the youth and underpins efforts towards better governance. It also helps prepare partners to negotiate and, in the future, to implement deep and comprehensive free trade agreements.
Follow-Up to the Joint Communication on a Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean
The 8 March Communication on the southern Mediterranean set out the steps taken and the instruments available to respond immediately to ongoing events in the southern neighbourood, be it supporting the transition in Tunisia or helping to prevent a humanitarian crisis in and around Libya. It also looked into the future, outlining an incentive based approach to assist political, economic and social reforms in the countries of the region. Highlighting the importance of higher standards of human rights, democracy and accountable governance it builds around three priority areas: Democratic transformation and institution building; a stronger partnership with the people; sustainable and inclusive growth and economic development.
This document highlights some of the specific areas where work has already been undertaken.
Click here for details on the ENP country reports East and the report on progress in the Eastern Partnership, issued simultaneously. (ENPI Info Centre)