The European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) – where is the EU heading with this?
The European Neighborhood Policy (ENP)

Even though the EU enlargement might have been followed by many questions and ambiguities, Europe has taken up another project which was at that time and still remains to be highly ambitious. The European Neighbourhood Policy or shortly ENP, has been seen to work closely with its neighbours for over 10 years now (since 2004). Yet, it is still questionable whether it was a right step and more importantly, whether we observed evident improvements in the countries around the borders of the expanded EU. ENP countries are: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Tunisia, and Ukraine. 

Since it has become a prominent regional and international actor, EU’s urge to achieve and prove that it will overcome many challenges. But how far the EU is willing and is capable to expand: remains still the topic area that is questioned by many scholars and not only. While concentrating on Eastern and Southern Neighbourhoods it evidently embraces and involves many key players: partners and states that are a part of the ENP programme. Starting with Belarus and its human rights abuses and finishing with the Armenia-Azerbaijan dispute in the East, going down to Southern countries suffering democracy crisis and political instability, ENP is trying to be unique of its kind and propose other methods compared to its allies. ENP is based, as some others issues tackled by the EU, on soft approach with capacity building rather than coercion and negative incentives. It has been created as a tool used for democratic assistance, political stability, communication and economic cooperation with the active involvment of such institutions as European Endowment for Democracy or European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and etc. However, the ENP contributes to a decent number of other ambitious and positive programmes where ideas listed on a paper remain to be there rather than successfully put into action.

Nevertheless, blaming Europe for its ambitious and impressive plans is rather inappropriate and unacceptable since the EU is concerned about its neighbourhood and the future perspectives of ENP countries. Concentrating on other states around Europe and securing democratic regimes can lead to an obvious decrease in refugee numbers or ease the terrorism burden and other major global issues that are on European agenda. After investing millions of euros and issuing positive Action Plans, some may say that the EU still lacks cohesion, a clear-cut approach and credibility. It cannot be denied, however, neighbouring country’s performance, commitment and external influence results efficiency of the EU programs. While assisting Egypt during its democratic elections did not lead anywhere; it did work in other countries, for example,Morocco even though slowly is moving towards a more consistent, politically stable and democratic approach. It should not be forgotten that as much as the EU is an influential external actor, other countries and unions tend to pursue as well their own goals. For instance, Moldova has experienced a significant Russia’s influence on its wine exports, therefore on its economy as well. Additionally, it is important to note, that even though European Union is offering many incentives and rewards, it lacks one and only – the possibility of future EU accession. After all, many countries strive to be part of the EU. The recent Croatia is one of the crucial examples, alongside Ukraine where according to the president Poroshenko talks Ukraine eventually will be one of the EU member states. Indeed, there are many views and perceptions regarding the EU’s support from the ENP countries themselves. Some reviews are mixed, some are somewhat positive or even negative.

Yet, European Union should be rewarded for pursuing its objectives beyond its borders. As it can be said, at least it is trying to achieve something than do nothing. The lack of time, research, commitment, work input – these all might be (or might be not) seen as major factors that stops the EU from expanding its influence. On the other hand, it can be assumed without any doubts that without the EU it is questionable if the progress in some countries would have been the same. Evidently, it is not only the EU’s good will and a wish to assist European neighbours in their development, but also the need to secure stability and democracy on the continent.