Judy Asks: Is the European neighbourhood policy doomed?

Judy Asks: Is the European neighbourhood policy doomed?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
20 May 2015
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.

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.

Ian Bond is director of foreign policy at the Centre for European Reform.