The EU and the Southern Neighbourhood: more than crisis-management

Europe’s neighbourhood is central in achieving the European Union’s key objectives to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples. The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is designed to help the EU support and foster stability, security and prosperity in the countries closest to its borders.
The 2015 review of the European Neighbourhood Policy introduced a focus on individual partnership priorities for a greater sense of ownership. But short-term developments in need of urgent responses – such as security concerns and refugee flows – have dominated EU relations with the region in the past years and weighed on the implementation of the reviewed ENP.

Ahead of the 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels, the European Movement International takes the opportunity to renew its position on the European Neighbourhood Policy, to assess the implementation of the ENP review, and to highlight the key elements for the EU’s relation with both its Eastern and its Southern partners. In this exercise, the debate on the Future of the European Union takes centre stage. Europe’s Eastern and Southern partners need to be taken into account when discussing Europe’s future, especially in terms of geopolitics, (energy) security and climate change.

Relations with the EU’s Southern Partners

The relations of the European Union with the Middle East and North Africa are shaped through the Union for the Mediterranean and the European Neighbourhood Policy. Whereas the former focusses on regional cooperation, the latter takes a differentiated approach to encourage political and economic reform coupled with financial or technical assistance. The ENP covers relations with Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Tunisia. Relations with Turkey, a Union for the Mediterranean member, are covered by the EU’s Enlargement Policy.

The structured approach towards the EU’s Southern partners, which was inspired for a large part by the Arab Spring uprisings, has in the past years been challenged by instability in the region. Conflicts, instability and insecurity have complicated cooperation and even necessitated military involvement; while coping with growing refugee and migrants flows as well as radicalisation and terrorism in Europe have absorbed the attention of the European Union and its Member States.

This has challenged the effectiveness of the European Neighbourhood Policy, as EU-concerted actions towards coping with migration flows and terrorism threats have mainly taken place outside the ENP framework, such as the Italy-Libya Memorandum of Understanding or ‘EU-Libya Migration Deal’. Relations with the Southern Neighbourhood can however not be dominated only by migration and security concerns, but need to be based on a partnership agenda with joint priorities, responding to the broader interests of the Southern partners and the EU.

This has been recognised by Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn, and 2017 Association Councils with Algeria, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt focused on common partnership priorities. However, to ensure that the ENP contributes to stability, security and prosperity in the Southern Neighbourhood, the European Movement International proposes the following:

Framework for cooperation

The European Neighbourhood Policy and Union for the Mediterranean should be the main framework for relations with the Southern Neighbourhood, and other EU policies, for example actions to cope with migration or security concerns, should be implemented in their context. The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) should be maintained in the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework, with no less than the 15 billion euro allocated to the ENI for the period of 2014-2020.

Priorities

The relationship with the Southern Neighbourhood should focus on long-term interests that also resonate in the Future of Europe debate. This should include cooperation on the Sustainable Development Goals, the implementation of the Paris Agreement, as well as balanced trade, agricultural and fisheries policies. At the same time, the relationship should build on joint priorities that positively impact both sides. For example, short-term measures to manage refugee flows should be coupled with forward-looking legal migration schemes. Cooperation should be guided by the EU’s fundamental values such as human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Stakeholder involvement

EU Member States need to show their commitment to the European Neighbourhood Policy by working on the basis of the joint priorities and partnership agendas with the Southern partners, going beyond short-term and bilateral responses to conflicts, migration and security issues. This Member State involvement should be matched by a structural engagement of the European Parliament with the ENP in the Southern Neighbourhood, and more visibility for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean. Finally, more focus and resources should be put in involving civil society and encourage civil society cooperation in the Southern Neighbourhood and the EU to match the efforts put on the Eastern Partnership side.


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