EU support for its southern neighbourhood

07.03.2014 - Article

The countries of North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean are a priority area for EU external relations. Since 2004, EU support for this region is pooled under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).

Catherine Ashton with Mokhtar Trifi, President of the Tunisian Human Rights League (February 2011)
Catherine Ashton with Mokhtar Trifi, President of the Tunisian Human Rights League (February 2011)© picture alliance / dpa

Following the onset of political upheavals in the Arab world in 2011, the EU decided to intensify its cooperation with this region and to pursue more differentiated policies with the individual countries. Accordingly, closer relations with the EU are to be offered especially to those partners that make progress towards democracy and the rule of law.

European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

  • The adoption of the ENP coincided with the EU’s eastward enlargement in 2004. The accession of central and eastern European countries to the Union raised the question of how the EU could contribute to democracy, stability and growth in neighbouring countries. The EU’s response was to create the ENP, which pools EU programmes in the areas of finance, trade and mobility.

  • The ENP is geared towards the EU’s eastern and southern neighbours. The “Eastern Partnership” encompasses Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and the “Southern Neighbourhood” is comprised of Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Tunisia. The ENP aims first and foremost to foster reform processes and offers no direct prospect of accession to the EU. Its chief objectives are to contribute to the realisation of shared values (especially democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance) and to promote economic development.

  • The ENP is implemented on the basis of action plans agreed between the EU and the individual partner countries. These action plans are the ENP’s primary operative instrument. They are comprised of an agenda setting out political and economic reforms covering a period of three to five years. The European Commission publishes annual progress reports evaluating the implementation of the action plans.

  • Bilateral cooperation with the EU’s southern neighbours within the framework of the ENP was enhanced in July 2008 through the creation of a multilateral forum called the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM). The UfM encompasses a total of 43 countries, including all EU member states, the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea (except Libya), Jordan and Mauritania. It further develops the EU’s existing Mediterranean policy and aims to promote economic integration and sector specific cooperation. Despite various challenges, the UfM plays a key role as a forum for regional cooperation that includes Israel and Turkey.

  • From 2007 to 2013, the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) served as the main source of financial support under the ENP. The ENPI has been replaced by the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) for the period from 2014 to 2020.

  • For the 2014–2020 period (i.e., the current multiannual financial framework) € 15.4 bn euros have been allocated to the ENP. Two thirds of this sum are expected to be targeted towards the Southern Neighbourhood.

Partnership for democracy and prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean

After the onset of the Arab Spring in 2011, the EU undertook a review of the European Neighbourhood Policy’s instruments and its cooperation with southern neighbours in particular. In spring 2011, Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, unveiled a blueprint for a “Partnership for democracy and prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean”. The partnership involves expanded cooperation in the areas of trade and mobility as well as additional financial support for those partners undergoing processes of democratic transformation.

The EU member states support this new orientation in the EU’s Neighbourhood Policy and decided in June 2011 to strengthen the linkage between progress on reforms and financial support (the “more for more” principle). The EU Special Representative Bernardino León is one of the main coordinators of the EU’s activities in the Southern Mediterranean.

Mobility and trade

The issues of mobility and migration are key priorities in the EU’s cooperation with its southern neighbours. Large numbers of migrants come from or transit through the countries of North Africa. Successful dialogues on “migration, mobility and security” have been conducted with Tunisia and Morocco. One of the main objectives of such dialogues is to establish a mobility partnership that focuses on four priorities: strengthening legal migration, combating irregular migration, expanding refugee protection and intensifying the links between migration and development. A mobility partnership with Morocco was established in June 2013 and is currently in the implementation stage. Negotiations to set up a mobility partnership with Tunisia have been successfully concluded.

In addition to existing trade liberalisation on the basis of Association Agreements, the EU is poised to offer Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan greater access to the EU internal market within the framework of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements.

Ongoing efforts to advance cooperation

The EU’s southern neighbourhood is a dynamic region with major challenges. The EU is engaged in a continuous process of fine tuning its neighbourhood policy, in order to offer attractive programmes that aim to strengthen its neighbours’ bonds to the EU and its values.

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