The Neighbourhood Policy is Dead. What’s Next for European Foreign Policy Along its Arc of Instability?

Written by | Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Nathalie Tocci (Istituto Affari Internazionali)

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is dead. This is mainly due to the rapidly changing situation on European Union’s eastern and southern flank and, more specifically, because of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis and the wave of botched revolutions called the Arab Spring. Nevertheless, the ENP appeared to be a suitable tool for the stimulation of democratic development in North Africa during 2011. The situation over the EU’s eastern border can be perceived similarly. While Association Agreements (AA) were signed with Ukraine, Moldavia and Georgia, the refusal to sign the AA by former Ukrainian president led to the escalation of riots, Euromaidan and finally to the current situation.

EU enlargement in the southern direction, towards the Mediterranean Sea, is out of the question. The relatively high stability of the entire region is over due to the Arab Spring or, more precisely, due to failed or stalled process of democratic transformation. Affected countries are facing problems connected with the migration of population, outbreaks of diseases and deteriorating environment. Last but not least, the entire region is threatened by the ISIS terrorist organization while Russia and China are becoming more involved in the region. Rather than trying to revive the failed Union for the Mediterranean, the EU’s effort should instead focus on smaller units and opening dialogues – this would be a step in the right direction, as Tunisia’s case demonstrates. Tunisia can be used as an example for others as a predominantly Muslim country that has held democratic elections and saw a democratic transfer of power.

Due to the nature of the Ukraine crisis, it is clear that the EU-Russian tensions will not be resolved in the near future. Turning a blind eye towards the crisis and making excuses based on the ENP by the EU is truly irresponsible and potentially dangerous. The unclear position of the Eastern Partnership also complicates the geopolitical situation east of the EU. For example, although Armenia did not adopt the Association Agreement, it is a much more stable country than Ukraine. European politicians must take even the slightest sign of any crisis in this region very seriously. The EU should pursue such well-crafted policies that will effectively help the Eastern countries stand on their feet.

At the same time, Europe should not forget about its biggest neighbor to the east, which is and will always be Russia, and consequently should not create such a major dividing line on the European continent. Even though the Eurasian Economic Union is bound to fail due to its attitude towards the West, the EU should try to find common ground with the Eurasian Union. The EU should not ignore countries that do not want to build a strong partnership with the Eurasian Union, and should involve Russia when dealing with geopolitical problems that both parties deal with – be it a fight against terrorism, crisis in Syria or the Iran’s nuclear program.

(The study can be downloaded here)

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