Thursday, December 21, 2006

European Neighbourhood Policy: the EC wants to make it more attractive for EU's neighbours?

In its new strategy paper on the neighbourhood policy (ENP), the EC makes the assessment that with this policy, the EU seeks to encourage a very ambitious reform programme in partner countries, with many of the political and economic costs being up-front. Yet an important part of the incentives of the ENP – for instance in terms of market access and integration and other economic benefits – will only bear fruit later. This creates a real difficulty for partner countries in building the necessary domestic support for reform.

Three areas are of particular importance with regard to this problem: trade and economic integration / migration and mobility / regional conflicts.

In response to this assessment, the EC decided to strengthen the ENP by offering "attractive incentives to our Neighbourhood partners... concentrating on key areas of mutual interest like people to people contacts, deepening trade relations, stronger co-operation on energy, migration and visa issues as well as financial support".

  • A Neighbourhood Investment Fund, to which Member States will also be invited to contribute, which would be used to leverage additional lending from the European Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other development banks. The contribution from the Community Budget would be €700 million.
  • €300 million will also be set aside for a Governance Facility, to provide additional support on top of normal country allocations to acknowledge and support the work of partner countries that have made most progress in implementing their Action Plans.
  • A clear perspective for all ENP partners, eastern as well as southern, of deep economic and trade integration with the EU, going beyond free trade in goods and services to address non-tariff barriers achieving comprehensive regulatory convergence.
  • Substantially improved visa procedures for certain types of visitors.
  • Ad hoc or regular ministerial and expert level meetings with ENP partners on subjects like energy, transport, the environment and public health.
  • Strengthened political co-operation, more systematic association of ENP partners with EU initiatives (foreign policy declarations, positions in international fora as well as participation in key programmes and EU agencies).
  • A more active role for the EU in conflict-settlement efforts in the region.
  • A strengthened regional approach in the east based on existing Black Sea co-operation. Trade, investment and economic integration.

    The Communication proposes also to strengthen the ‘human face’ of the neighbourhood policy with a 'people to people' programme and recognises in particular that civil society participation in the ENP should go beyond exchanges and cooperation programmes. "We must encourage partner governments to allow appropriate participation by civil society representatives as stakeholders in the reform process, whether in the preparation of legislation, the monitoring of its implementation or in developing national or regional initiatives related to the ENP. At the national level, or in a broader regional context, government / civil society seminars on the challenges of reform will help build a climate of confidence".

    Source: EU NEWS - Issue 10, December 2006 (APRODEV, CIDSE, Caritas Europa)

    See also Euforic dossier on Europe and its neighbours