The European Union has started a thorough review of its regional policy in response to the conflicts in Ukraine, North Africa, and in the Middle East. In 2003, the EU launched its first European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) with the intention to establish close ties with the post-communist countries in Eastern Europe including Russia as well as with then-stable North African countries. However, during past four years, the situation in these regions has changed dramatically. The Arab Spring and later Crimea have negatively influenced the mutual relations of these countries with the EU.
As a result, the European Commission decided to revamp its approach to regional policy, stating that “it is now essential to undertake a fundamental review of the principles on which the (European Neighborhood) policy is based as well as its scope”. More specifically, EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, admitted that it was time to leave a one-size-fits-all policy behind and allow for “the different aspirations, values and interests of our partners.” She said that “recent developments in the region have increased the challenges we all face: from economic pressures to irregular migration and security threats”.
Brussels’ decision to revise its regional policy also stems from the criticism that the block’s policy of approaching the post-communist world and especially of encouraging Ukraine to sign the EU association deal went too far. Mrs Mogherini, however, strongly refuted this idea saying “there is no EU policy whatever that is meant to be in confrontation with anyone, on the contrary, cooperation is the basis for EU policy”. The EU’s neighborhood policy, whose 2014-2020 budget is more than €15 billion, covers Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, the six countries included in the EU’s Eastern Partnership. The next Eastern Partnership summit will take place in Riga in May this year.