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Towards a new European Neighbourhood Policy


ECDPM contribution to the EU consultation: “Towards a new European Neighbourhood Policy”'. European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). Maastricht. July 2015

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Drawing on previous research and analysis, this contribution by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) is in reply to the official consultation on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), launched by High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn at a press conference on March 4th 2015.

This contribution chiefly concerns North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Key Messages

  • The tools of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) can be tweaked and improved but the EU needs to find a long-term vision for its relationship with North African countries. This vision needs to take into account what is feasible and is informed by the interests, aspirations and opportunities on both sides of the Mediterranean. The review should not occur in isolation from ongoing reviews into other EU policy frameworks.
  • Structural challenges impede EU external action and development policy in the Neighbourhood. Coordination with Member States needs to become more systematic, but there will be little improvement if the EU and its Member States continue to send mixed and sometimes divergent messages to Mediterranean partners and societies. With the increasing presence of other powers, the focus should be on aligning the messages emanating from European.


Courtesy of European Commission

Further Discussion

Multiple layers of regional formats exist between North Africa and countries south of the Sahara, which challenges the idea of a single neighbourhood. To have added value in bringing together Northern African stakeholders with their Southern neighbours, the EU will need to be creative in its engagement on specific and concrete entry points. All the while they will need to pay heed to and support long-term aspirations towards regional integration.

A comprehensive migration policy needs to consider local, national and regional dynamics south of the Sahara. EU responses will be incomplete in the absence of domestic engagement of African states and discussion on internal EU policy coherence for migration and development. This included legal migration opportunities to EU member states.

The potential of cultural relations between the two shores of the Mediterranean to increase mutual understanding needs to be supported by promoting grassroots cooperation, mobility and people-to-people exchanges between European and Arab citizens. To do so, the “cultural sensitivity” of the EU and its Member States needs to be enhanced.

The Arab Spring put governance, democratic transition and civil society support high on the EU agenda. But the EU response, based on the wrong premises, has largely failed to deliver.

Meanwhile, a new EU approach to civil society has been developed, empowering it to work with non-state actors in a more sophisticated and flexible manner. The benefits of this approach can be reaped provided that the EU has leadership and political capacity and that its Member States are on board.

Background Information

The ENP was last reviewed in 2011. Given the significant developments in the neighbourhood since then, this is a review of the principles on which the policy is based as well as its scope and how its instruments should be used.

The aim is to consult as widely as possible both with partners in the neighbouring countries and with stakeholders across the EU until the end of June. After this consultation, a Communication setting out proposals for the future direction of the ENP will follow in the autumn.

The consultation will follow four priorities: differentiation; focus; flexibility; ownership & visibility. Five areas where both sides share common interests have already been identified: trade and economic development; connectivity; security; governance; migration and mobility.

Download the ECDPM contribution to the European Neighbourhood Policy review here

Further Reading

Joint consultation paper ”Towards a new European Neighbourhood Policy”

Consultation webpage

European Commission website on Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations 

European Neighbourhood Info Centre

Photo courtesy of Chris Belsten

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Cross-cutting TopicsAfrica-EU RelationsEuropean responses to violent conflict and crisisExternal Action in Global RegionsRegional IntegrationTransitions in AfricaContributing DocumentEuropeNorth AfricaSahara DesertSahel