European Neighbourhood Policy Explained

By Shane Goodman

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is a foreign policy instrument that governs the EU’s relations with sixteen of its neighbouring countries; those being Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the east, and Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in the south. Launched alongside the 2004 EU Enlargement, the ENP has sought to strengthen the bloc’s political and economic links with a ring of surrounding countries. 

How does the ENP work?

The current legal basis for the ENP can be found in the Treaty on European Union. Article 8 states that the Union “shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness”. In practical terms, the ENP takes the form of various projects with partner countries. Examples include an economic revitalisation package for Eastern Ukraine, and the Clima-Med programme in North Africa and the Middle East. The implementation of these projects as part of the Policy is overseen by both the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG-NEAR).

Projects under the banner of the ENP have been funded through various initiatives and instruments over the years. From 2014 to 2020, the ENP was funded with €15.4 billion through the European Neighbourhood Instrument. The ENI has since been merged into the simplified Global Europe programme. For the 2021-2027 period, the ENP is funded through the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). As part of this, the Commission has committed to investing at least €19.32 billion into the Neighbourhood in the coming years.

The Eastern Partnership

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) guides the EU relationship with six countries in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. Unveiled at the Prague Summit in 2009, the EaP aims to create a common space between the EU and the aforementioned regions. A 2020 policy document on ENP-related operations in the region highlighted five priorities, including the promotion of economic cooperation, the rule of law and sustainability. Belarus had participated in the Partnership since its inception, but has suspended Eastern Partnership activities in response to EU sanctions as of June 2021. 

ENP-South and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region The most recent policy statement on the Southern Neighbourhood, published in February 2021 by the Commission, outlines five priorities that are markedly similar to those of the EaP: rule of law, economic prosperity, peace and security, controlling migration and ensuring climate resilience. This is a broader agenda than the previous policy review on the region in 2015, which focused heavily on stability, security and migration. Similar to the EaP, not all partner countries have the same relationship with the EU. The bloc may enjoy a constructive relationship with countries like Morocco, Jordan or Tunisia, but Libya has never signed an Association Agreement, and ENP-related projects remain suspended altogether in Syria. With challenges remaining to both the east and south, can a renewed ENP deliver?

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