Every week, a selection of leading experts answer a new question from Judy Dempsey on the foreign and security policy challenges shaping Europe’s role in the world.
Can anyone even say what the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is? The EU’s current review of the ENP must be unsparing—the union’s approach to both its Southern and its Eastern neighbors is a mess of inconsistency and wishful thinking.
The #ENP is a mess of inconsistency and wishful thinking.Tweet This
When the policy was last reviewed, in 2010–2011, the EU decided that the ENP needed “a strong focus on the promotion of deep and sustainable democracy.” That included free and fair elections, freedom of expression, of assembly, and of association, judicial independence, the fight against corruption, and democratic control over the armed forces.
Since then, of the sixteen countries covered by the ENP, two (Libya and Syria) have fallen into near anarchy; one (Egypt) has had a military coup; and repression of civil society and the media has worsened in several, including Azerbaijan. With a few honorable exceptions (Georgia, Israel, and Jordan), most states are profoundly corrupt, according to the corruption indices published by Transparency International, an NGO. A few ENP countries have made progress toward democracy (Tunisia and Ukraine) but remain vulnerable to internal and external challenges.
Whether the EU evaluates the ENP as a values-based or an interests-based policy, the union has to admit that its approach has failed: the EU has neither spread its values nor protected its interests. Europe cannot change its geography or wish away its difficult neighbors. So it will have to come up with a much more effective set of policies to deal with them.
No, the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is not a doomed concept, but rather a determined commitment. Now under strategic review, the ENP is enhanced by greater awareness among EU policymakers of the demands and determinants of an altered threat environment.
In the East, a resurgent Russia is intent on pushing back against European engagement in Russia’s near abroad, or the post-Soviet space, which Moscow sees as its own natural sphere of influence. This threat also reflects the powerful attraction and pronounced seduction of the EU, in stark contrast to the authoritarian and coercive Russian model.
And in the South, there is a new immediate threat associated with mobility and migration, as expressed through a mounting maritime security challenge.
The real test for the #EaP is less about Russia and more about Europe.Tweet This
For the ENP, the strategic goal is stability along the European periphery. In the East, this involves bringing six former Soviet states closer with a European offer of association under the Eastern Partnership (EaP).
Yet the real test for the EaP is less about Russia and more about Europe itself. There is no longer a Fortress Europe, but rather a Hotel Europa, where the EaP states face few vacancies and instead ask for an upgrade that not all can afford.
I would not say the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is doomed, but it does appear sleepy every now and then.
At the EU’s 2013 Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit in Vilnius, two out of the six EaP countries—Moldova and Georgia—showed up willing to sign an Association Agreement, a framework for political and economic cooperation with the EU. Both countries did so in 2014, together with Ukraine. For this decision, all three paid—and are still paying—a dear price.
At the EaP summit in Riga on May 21–22, leaders from Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine will want to go back home with something tangible to show, such as a visa liberalization accord. They need good news. This year, Georgia’s economy is expected to grow by only around 2 percent, down from earlier projections of over 4 percent. Georgia feels the pain of EU sanctions against Russia because remittances from Russia have slowed. The depreciation of the Georgian lari has caused anguish because the country’s economy exhibits a high degree of dollarization.
The #ENP is not doomed, but it seems to have no reflexes.Tweet This
Against this backdrop, going home empty-handed is not good. A recent poll by the National Democratic Institute, a democracy-support NGO, indicated that 31 percent of Georgians were in favor of joining the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union—and this in a country whose Euro-Atlantic trajectory has enjoyed a political consensus.
So the ENP is not doomed, but it seems to have no reflexes. Policy is not an exercise in normative approximation alone. In Tbilisi, there are also expectations to manage.
The European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is doomed only if seen in terms of the idealistic goal that an EU policy can suddenly change the course of hundreds of years of history. In a contemporary context, the policy is a work in progress on all fronts: for the EU itself, for the partner countries, and for Russia.
The EU needs internal coherence before developing the #ENP further.Tweet This
Since the EU’s 2013 Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, the stakes for the ENP’s Eastern dimension have been raised, and developments in Ukraine have been dramatic. But these events do not alter four key longer-term trends. First, the EU needs to find internal coherence before developing its neighborhood policy further. Second, the union should practice what it preaches: partnership does not necessarily mean membership.
Third, the reality in many partner states is a lack of reforms and increased corruption. And fourth, geopolitical divisions benefit (corrupt) elites more than they encourage reforms for the good of societies.
The key for any long-term policy is the ability to make necessary corrections. That is a strength, not a weakness, as often perceived in the Western press. If Brussels were unable to correct its shortcomings, then not only would the regions to the EU’s East and South be “lost,” but so too would the essence of the union’s institutional decisionmaking.
The European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) as such should not be maintained. The ENP has failed to achieve its goal of building a ring of well-governed states to the EU’s East and South. The policy’s brand brings no added value to the union, and the single framework encourages an approach based on process rather than on impact and effectiveness.
The #ENP brand brings no added value to the EU.Tweet This
The ENP’s current scope is arbitrary, with no coherent policy or geographic logic. The countries included are not all terrestrial or maritime neighbors of the EU. Several states pose challenges that are shared with countries not included, for example Syria (which is included) and Iraq (which is not), Libya and Mali, or Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. The EU should develop policies that address the real challenges posed for the union by each of these states.
The EU should establish a limited number of priorities in its relations with each country. These priorities should reflect their most pressing needs and proven intentions for domestic reform, the resources the EU can mobilize, and member states’ readiness to back up EU efforts in tangible ways. This new pragmatic approach would have far greater impact than any number of hollow action plans, progress reports, strategies, or partnerships.
The European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is failing, and no amount of positive spin from Brussels is going to change that simple fact. What was envisioned as an area for engagement along the EU’s Eastern and Southern peripheries is today an arc of instability and war, and prospects are dim that the program has much to offer to prevent the situation from deteriorating even further.
The #ENP is failing, and no amount of spin is going to change that.Tweet This
This is not to say that there were no brighter spots in the past. For a time, there was at least a glimmer of hope that Ukraine could be kept in play—that is, until former president Viktor Yanukovych showed his cards. Looking South, in light of the accelerating meltdown in the Middle East, it is difficult to see what achievements of real strategic value the ENP has made there.
From the start, the ENP’s original sin has been the insoluble contradiction between the policy’s conditionality, derived from the EU’s enlargement methodology, and its refusal to offer a reasonable prospect of EU membership. Most importantly, the events of the past year have made a mockery of the belief that the ENP could become an alternative to geopolitics.
In a world where Ukraine is being partitioned and the Middle East is on fire, if the ENP is the answer, what is the question?
The European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is not doomed, but it needs to do—and can do—better.
The #ENP is not doomed, but it needs to do, and can do, better.Tweet This
In April 2011, during an informal dinner with experts to hear their thoughts on the Arab Spring, a key EU official concluded his introductory remarks by saying: “If people in the Arab world went onto the streets, it is because they had read the text of the Barcelona Process.”
The absurdity of this statement—the Barcelona Process being a forerunner of the ENP’s Southern dimension—is in no doubt. What is more worrying is that some EU decisionmakers seem to believe that the union was the trigger for the Arab world’s quest for dignity.
Since it was officially launched in 2004, the ENP has gone through several phases that prove that Europeans are lost in translation. Europeans’ initial intentions may have been pure: policymakers in the EU believed they had a duty to help their neighbors achieve high political, economic, and social standards.
The results of the EU’s subsequent policies are more dubious. The union’s top-down approach worked neither with the Eastern Partnership states nor with the countries of the Southern Mediterranean. And the EU still has to figure out how its own Eurocentric considerations can serve countries whose populations are struggling simply to achieve security, stability, and better living conditions.
If the EU seriously stuck to conditionality in its relations with its neighbors, it would definitely have more impact on them. But if Europeans want to make a real difference, they also need to reconsider the way they address the policies that are developed by other actors—such as the United States and Russia—in the EU’s neighborhood.
EU capitals need to decide whether they want to have a serious impact in Europe’s neighborhood. If the answer is yes, they should choose the EU as the vehicle for such an impact, as the union’s collective weight is much greater than the weight of any individual member state.
The next decision for EU leaders is what kind of impact they want to have: Do they want to maintain the status quo or change it? Do they prefer to work with authoritarian governments or to aim at regime change? Will they invest in transformation or stay out of partners’ internal affairs? And do they want to keep EU membership on the table or define a new status for aspiring countries? This is the debate the EU never had.
The #ENP lacks clear goals and has insufficient support in key member states.Tweet This
The current European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is an expression of unease, of indecision. It is not a strong policy with clear goals, and it has insufficient support in key member states. Continuing with this policy means frustrating the hopes that so many people in the neighborhood have for a decent life—the hope for change in their countries. It also means giving up on any aspiration to shape the neighborhood in a serious way.
A new approach can only emerge if there is sufficient political will in key member states to back up a joint ENP with resources and power. Someone has to step forward and take the lead.
The European Union is doomed to live next to two neighborhoods—the South and the East—that for the foreseeable future will pose a huge challenge for the EU’s stability, security, and prosperity. Can the EU meet the tests that these two neighborhoods present at a time when the union is facing its own domestic challenges, to which it seems unable to find solutions? So far, the answer has been a resounding no!
The task of supporting the neighborhood is too big for the #EU to shoulder.Tweet This
I doubt whether the outcome of the ongoing review of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), which will be concluded in the course of 2015, will be a turning point in terms of the resources that the EU must commit to revamp the policy. Those commitments must go beyond verbal statements, at which the EU is quite good, and must be sustained over a long period—with no guarantee of success.
This leads to the sober conclusion that the task of supporting the wider neighborhood is way too big for the EU to shoulder. The countries concerned are unwilling or incapable of contributing to their own transformation to market economy–based democracies. Against that backdrop, expect more of the same policies from the EU.
The European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is not just doomed, it may ossify. The EU’s aversion to change even in separate policy areas threatens to trigger indifference in the union’s neighbors.
#Ukraine's leaders have dismally few tangible achievements to show to pro-EU voters.Tweet This
Nowhere is this policy inertia more visible than between Ukraine and the EU. Almost a year after the long-awaited signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, the country’s leaders have dismally few tangible achievements to show to pro-EU voters. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s promise to submit an EU accession application by 2020 rings hollow amid the lack of an EU consensus over Ukraine’s membership perspective.
The autonomous trade preferences that the EU granted unilaterally to Ukraine in 2014 have benefited some Ukrainian exporters, but the effect of the measures is petering out. The planned 2016 implementation of the EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement is under threat from misguided calls to amend the deal following pressure from Russia.
Sectors that are supposed to be at the core of the Eastern Partnership have seen far too little progress. Visa-free travel for Ukrainians entering the EU will not be offered for another year, despite substantial progress made by Ukraine toward this goal—as confirmed by the European Commission’s progress report.
The so-called open skies agreement, which aims to harmonize airline industry rules between the EU and Ukraine, has been hamstrung by EU technicalities; as a result, European low-cost carriers flee Ukraine instead of going there. This is not what the Eastern Partnership was supposed to look like.
Few in Ukraine expect the EU to switch into a higher gear with no questions asked. However, before accusing Ukrainians of shunning reform under the pretext of the ongoing war in the country’s east, the EU should check it is not doing the same thing.
Far from discarding the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) as irredeemably doomed, the EU is likely to use the current review process to make only modest adjustments to its policies in Eastern Europe and the Southern Mediterranean.
The #ENP cannot be the sole channel for geopolitical influence.Tweet This
The ENP offers elements of cooperation that are useful to the union’s immediate neighbors. But the policy cannot be the sole or even the primary channel for geopolitical influence.
The EU can ensure that the ENP delivers cooperation in ways that are more flexible, demand-driven, and individualized to recipient states’ needs. This agenda for improving the ENP has been around for many years and should not be difficult to design or implement. It will not, however, be a game changer.
The EU and its member states need much fuller geostrategic engagement with the causal drivers of the neighborhood’s security challenges. Many of these challenges may not be within the EU’s gift to resolve. Yet the union can do more in aiming structurally to reshape the neighborhood, rather than simply containing the outward symptoms of instability. Achieving this is about geostrategic foresight and vision, not merely redesigning ENP instruments.
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