A new EU policy towards the neighbourhood

16/07/2015, Rome

The new EU directions on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) were discussed in a meeting in Rome organised by the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and chaired by the Deputy Director Nathalie Tocci.

The policy was initially designed in an EU enlargement perspective, between 2003 and 2004, but given the ‘dramatically changed’ context, there was a need for a new strategy.

Simon Mordue, Director of the 'Enlargement Policy and Strategy' in the EU Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, stated that the reflections that emerged from the consultations will be presented next November. The most important innovation of the new strategy is ‘differentiation’, namely not only to distinguish between the Eastern and Southern areas of the European neighbourhood, but also to diversify the approach within those areas.

Moreover, the new Neighbourhood Policy should focus on security, greater involvement of the member and partner states, flexibility financial instruments and a broader geographical context.

The Italian Member of Parliament, Lia Quartapelle, highlighted the most evident limits to the old strategy. First of all, in 2003, the dominant belief was that a free market economy and democracy were the inevitable end points of any transition, while it is now recognised that other scenarios are possible and that the European model has to be presented in a more modest way. Secondly, a realistic assessment of the Neighbourhood Policy, especially in the Mediterranean area, is that the strategy was not able to cope with the changes that were occurring in the region. Finally, when considering the instruments of the ENP, differentiation has been lacking, even though the global order has to face changes that are different in every area (for instance, issues of migration and the presence of non-state actors), as has been flexibility of implementation times.

Marta Dassù, Editor-in-Chief of Aspenia, former Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, presented a different analysis: even if she recognises that the main shortcoming of the ENP was indeed the lack of differentiation, which meant that the same concepts and bureaucratic instruments were used in the East and the South, she believes that what the Union currently needs is not a new strategy, but a credible foreign policy towards the Neighbouring countries. With respect to differentiation, she raised the matter of having a division of labour within the Union.

Finally, Alberto Cutillo, Principal Director for European Integration in the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, tried to provide an answer to the most common questions on the ENP, given the particular relationship between the EU and its neighbours. In assessing the results of the Neighbourhood Policy, the diplomat acknowledged that it has not had a particularly positive impact. However, he thinks this is a shortcoming of the EU’s foreign policy in general and not only the ENP. Moreover, Cutillo noticed that the partner states perceive the strategy as an instrument of the EU rather than as a partnership. Finally, he believes that there is a need to strengthen the links between the ENP and CFSP, between the ENP and migration policy, and to adopt a positive approach to communication.

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