European Neighborhood Policy Review: Input by the Arab NGO Network for Development
Published on Fri, 2015-07-03 13:26
The peoples’ uprisings in the Arab region presented a golden occasion for revisiting the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and particularly the partnership between the Arab countries and the European Union (EU). The Joint Communication of the High Representative and European Commission, “A New Response to a Changing Neighborhood, ” highlighted important lessons learnt but remained an exercise of self-assessment without the engagement of EU partners and relevant stakeholders (including civil society) for what are widely considered today as major historical changes in the Arab countries.
This revision was based on a “business as usual approach” in terms of the tools it provided, namely the 3 Ms- money, market and mobility, which contain the following initiatives: deepening trade relations through Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements, creating Mobility Partnerships and allocating more resources to the region without undertaking a real assessment of their development impacts in the partner countries. In other words, the EU diminished the added-value that its Southern Neighbors are seeking from the partnership to the “prospects for market”, “visa free regime” and “more funding opportunities.” Indeed, when asked about their prioritization of issues, peoples of the region ranked democratic, political, employment, institutional and administrative reforms over free trade area and migration management . All are crucial today as new social contracts are developing and troubles may continue for long.
Since the Barcelona process, there has been a lack of balance between the three main pillars of the partnership, i.e. the economic, social and political agendas. Efforts to establish a common economic area by enhancing free trade between the EU and its various Southern Mediterranean partners have outshone efforts to create a common area for social development, peace and prosperity. The partnership was further challenged for its lack of inclusiveness and transparency in policy-making process. Behind-doors dialogue exclusively with national governments resulted in Action Plans without national ownership or a reflection of the real needs and necessities of all levels of society. Short, medium and long-term reforms were monitored without clear benchmarks and indicators; and accountability was sought unilaterally from partner countries to the EU. Measures suggested, including “more for more” brought further ambiguity and lack of trust, as incentives were not based on fundamental freedoms or human rights. Finally, no adequate responses were formulated by the EU to assist the transitions initiated by the “Arab Spring”.
Regarding the 2015 ENP Consultation process
In 2015, with a stocktaking exercise, the EU shift from only publicizing a new strategic document (as in 2011) towards undertaking a consultation process aiming to build a new policy based on the inputs of the relevant stakeholders is a step forward. However, many challenges facing partner countries limit effective engagement in this process; including the problems of access to information, lack of capacities to engage directly with the EU Delegations, language barriers and consultations’ nature-a tick-box exercise-.
Therefore, the current process represents a real opportunity so long as the EU meets the following conditions:
Re-Building relations with the Southern Neighborhood Countries
When launched in light of the 2004 EU enlargement, the ENP aimed at avoiding the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged EU and its neighbors. It aimed at strengthening the prosperity, stability and security of all. Yet it became limited in its achievements and success. This was initially caused by the lack of genuine EU-Arab partnership: the policy has been driven by Brussels- ignoring the periphery and lacking national ownership and true reflection of partner countries’ needs and necessities. The Arab countries were separated between the rich in the Gulf and those populated on the Mediterranean; and no scheme was formulated for regional integration and cooperation. The Action Plans and programming documents reflected this process and were similarly built on a Euro-centric approach. Consequently, EU policy propositions and initiatives have been overwhelmingly protective of EU interests over that of its partners particularly when faced with a crisis situation (i.e. economic crisis, migration crisis in the Mediterranean, the “Arab spring” and its consequences).
The consultation process launched by the EU is directing towards a new partnership that is more focused, is more flexible, differentiates between partners and ensures ownership.
The new framework can indeed be a mechanism to support the sustainable and inclusive development in the Arab region if structured to ensure the following:
The new framework should also broaden its approach to include peace and security as human rights. It should tackle violations committed by the Israeli occupation. This is a legal obligation for the EU under the Association Agreement signed with Israel, which in Article 2 requires that the relationship between the two parties shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic values. Also, it shall recognize that the global, and not-individualized, sanctions imposed Syria had contributed to weaken the Syrian society and to transform the uprising into a civil war.
On the other hand, regional integration and cooperation is key for enhancing peace and development for the Southern partners. The EU pursues such cooperation through the Union for the Mediterranean framework. Nevertheless the UfM framework based on the promotion of regional cooperation projects on selected priority areas is criticized to be very limited even in its technocratic and economic dimensions, without consideration of human rights and democracy. The new ENP framework should consider that “invigorating Arab-European relations will happen through the activation of the regional political dialogue tackling the challenges faced and the nature of relations between the two sides” . With regards to trade integration, the EU’s tendency to apply different levels of partnerships with Arab Sub regions (i.e. Maghreb countries, GCC. etc.) contributes to “dissipation efforts and the fragmentation of the region” .
Many Arab countries have experienced wars and important destructions following the events initiated by the “Arab Spring”. The others have received hundreds of thousands of immigrants, putting tremendous challenges on their economies and societies. This creates threats for the future of these countries and their development, as well as for Europe. But it also creates significant economic opportunities which can change the path of development of the region. The new ENP policy should clarify its responsibilities towards the humanitarian and development (education, health, etc.) crises experienced by the Arab countries. It also should consider the economic opportunities created by the reconstruction and stabilization, addressing the financial, industrial, legal and institutional aspects and how they could foster Euro-Arab partnership and Arab regional integration. The civil society should be strongly involved in defining the new ENP corresponding policies, especially as they tackle issues such as decentralization in line with Europe own development.
UN human rights experts have advised that the EU migration policy, “needs to move beyond emergency mode and to pilot projects towards more comprehensive and innovative regulated mobility avenues… must develop more harm-reduction policies, …and create innovative regulated mobility options that will incentivize migrants to avoid having recourse to smugglers” . All these efforts should be further in coherence with the implementation of ENP, and the new ENP should adopt a revised approach to migration. This should also involve organizing and easing immigration – instead of resisting it – by offering humanitarian visas and a meaningful chance to resettle.
List of signatories
Download the pdf version here.
IEMed Survey, 2014, http://www.iemed.org/actualitat-en/noticies/lenquesta-euromed-veu-amb-op...
Joint statement by Civil Society Organizations in Morocco and the Arab Countries Voice Concerns of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade agreement between Morocco and the EU
de-pollution of the Mediterranean, Maritime and land highways, Civil protection , Alternative energies: Mediterranean solar plan, Higher education and research, Euro-Mediterranean University and the Mediterranean Business Initiative
The Union for the Mediterranean, a critical approach, 2014, available at http://www.google.com.tr/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCUQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdialnet.unirioja.es%2Fdescarga%2Farticulo%2F4918443.pdf&ei=xpBjVe-GFcelsAHag4CYCw&usg=AFQjCNFQ7rq8kULtTUz8gmKUbGFtxI3WBg&bvm=bv.93990622,d.bGg&cad=rja
When Will Arab Regional Cooperation Become a Strategic Choice? By Ziad Abdel Samad, ANND e-newsletter issue April 2013, available at http://enewsletter.annd.org/newsletterId.php?newsletterId=37#sthash.K4m7...
Regional Civil Society Seminar on 'Mechanisms for Structured Dialogue at Regional Level in the Southern Neighborhood' (held in June 2014 in Tunis). The other challenges include mobility and inequalities. Read more at