The review of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is among the EU objectives set by the European Commission after Jean-Claude Juncker took over in 2014. The review of the ENP is not at all accidental, being dictated by the geopolitical volatility and numerous crises in the proximity of the EU, which revealed the inefficiency, and insufficiency, of the old instruments applied by the EU to stabilize its neighborhood. The previous adjustments to the neighborhood policy (in the context of the ‘Arab Spring’) failed to produce the projected results (prosperity and stability), while the subsequent destabilization in Ukraine, initiated by Russia, brought again the revision of the ENP on the EU agenda. This resulted in the publication of the reviewed ENP on November 18, 2015, which was worked out following public consultations launched by the EU. The given document presents the key areas of the future ENP, its functioning principles and the goals pursued by the EU.
Though a final decision on the reviewed ENP is to be adopted in 2016, it’s clear that the EU renounces the common solution for all the situations (“one size fits all”) in favor of ‘differentiation’ in its relations with the countries covered by the ENP. This way, the European neighborhood based on multiple visits (“multi-speed European neighborhood”) acquires a more concrete shape. For Moldova, the review of the ENP generates new opportunities for extending the relations with the EU, whose utilization greatly depends on the individual performance in doing reforms and on the progress made by other countries (in particular Ukraine and Georgia).
Positive aspects and major shortcomings of the new ENP
The reviewed ENP keeps the existing positive elements and lays emphasis on several new aspects. Thus, the reviewed ENP draws attention to the urgent necessity of stabilizing the European neighborhood both in terms of security and the socioeconomic situation (improvement of the living conditions, utilization of the migration opportunities, etc.). The preoccupation with the justice sector is combined with the modernization of the economy, securing of the energy sector or improvement of migration management, etc. It is also suggested cooperating in the area of security, with emphasis on the individual needs of the ENP countries. To make the ENP more operative and efficient, the existent financing instruments will be made flexible and will be supplemented and flexibility cushions will be created for critical situations. Considerable effort will be made to promote the ENP’s and EU’s positive image through the agency of pro-active communication strategies and by combating false information aimed against the EU.
At the same time, the reviewed ENP has provisions that could generate new risks. These refer to the advancement of the principle of ‘differentiation’ where the EU is ready to renounce the common format for assessing the progress in the ENP countries, which is used now. Instead, it is proposed an individualized monitoring model focused strictly on the cooperation areas agreed by the EU and the ENP country. Thus, there is the risk that some of the ENP countries will avoid undertaking commitments related to sensitive subjects and the human rights or state of democracy. This will allow them to diminish the political and public pressure coming from the EU. Moreover, under the ‘differentiation’ approach, the EU commits itself to putting the particularities of the interests of the ENP countries above everything, to the detriment of its commitment to promote the European values (democracy, human rights, the rule of law, etc.). It is evident that the ‘differentiation’, combined with the ’more for more‘ principle, stimulates competition between the ENP countries. But this competition is not always devoted to irreversible reforms, but rather to the struggle for obtaining increased financial assistance from the EU. For countries that are in advanced relations with the EU (Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia), the more profound ‘differentiation’ generates new benefits (augmentation of financial and technical assistance). The ENP countries without European aspirations, which want to have an efficient dialogue with the EU and to omit any clause related to the observance of human rights and the freedom of speech, look at things in a different way yet. This can affect the EU’s medium- and long-term interests and its image, creating preconditions for the appearance of hotbeds of instability in the region in the future.
Benefits for Moldova
The most substantial benefits for Moldova, generated by the reviewed ENP, derive from the extension of the ‘differentiation’ principle that confirms the privileged position of the countries that signed Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with the EU. In particular, the positive aspects for Moldova, introduced in the new ENP, are related to the more flexible financing instruments of the EU, to which it is added the offering of additional funds for crisis situations (flexibility cushions). Moreover, energy security gains a greater weight as the EU intends to further support the efforts to strengthen the ‘energy sovereignty’ of the countries from the Eastern neighborhood. Furthermore, the EU commits itself to intensify the integration of its energy market with the similar markets of Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia through the agency of the Energy Community. Also, the reviewed ENP allows developing cooperation relations with the EU in the security sector. These will be strictly focused on the profile of the ENP country and will incorporate conflict prevention and crisis management measures. Also, the reviewed ENP highlights the sovereign right of the ENP countries to develop the relationship with the EU according to the own interests and without being subject to pressure exerted by third forces. Thus, even if indirectly, the EU defends the countries that signed Association Agreements and DCFTAs, fact for which they have been punished by Russia since 2013.
Russia’s place in the new ENP
The new ENP makes direct and indirect reference to Russia and its place in the region. Compared with the ENP adjusted in 2010-2011, the document drafted in 2015 contains a more objective approach to the Russian factor. Russia’s involvement in the destabilization of Ukraine and the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity is explicitly recognized. Also, Russia is criticized in a veiled form for the non-observance of the ENP countries’ right to take sovereign decisions about their external development course and their rapprochement with the EU. In this regard, contrary to the Russian behavior, the EU allows the ENP countries to decide whether to extend the relations with the EU or not. Thus, even if without European aspirations (with reference to the Eastern Partnership), the countries will be able to conclude commercial, but non-preferential agreements with the EU.
In another development, the reviewed ENP points to the constructive character that the cooperation with Russia can have in solving joint problems in the region. It is also examined the possibility of reforming the energy dialogue with the Russian side. Despite these critical aspects in relation to Russia, which are present in the proposals of the new ENP, the EU’s intention to re-form its relations with Russia when the conditions permit it, which is after the stabilization of Ukraine, is clearly felt.
Instead of conclusion…
The reviewed ENP brings such crucial aspects as those related to ‘differentiation’. The final version of the ENP should yet take into account the possible developments in the region in the next 5-10 years, instead of focusing on short-term objectives. At the same time, the ENP should reflect the particularities of the countries form the Southern and Eastern neighborhood and the European values, without which the sustainable stabilization of the region is impossible. The relations between the EU and Russia must be as realistic as possible under the ENP, but these should result from the respect for the sovereignty of the ENP countries (Eastern neighborhood) by the Russian side.
Dionis Cenușa is a politologist, holding an MA degree in interdisciplinary European studies from the College of Europe.
Areas of interes: European integration, European policies, EU's foreign policy, migration and energy security.
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