Europe’s Neighborhood: Crisis As the New Normal

Written by | Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Nick Witney and Susi Dennison (European Council on Foreign Relations)

Already eleven years have passed since the creation of the European Neighborhood Policy. It has been evolving against the backdrop of the then European optimism and mutual trust as a means to support transformative processes in the neighboring countries. Its objective was to ensure that the EU would be surrounded by a ring of prosperous, stable and friendly countries. When we, however, scrutinize the current situation in the EU’s neighborhood, it is not really so. Currently, the European neighborhood is forced to deal with a number of conflicts, contra-revolutions and growing extremism.

Europeans must hence learn to perceive the conflicts in the neighboring countries as a new standard in the neighborhood policy. At present, this policy should mainly focus on the relatively stable countries (Ukraine, Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon) and on finding a solution to the refugee crisis. Furthermore, the EU should focus more on how it could reconcile different priorities of different Member States or the clash of interests between economic and security priorities of the EU as well as how to promote the process of democratization in the neighboring countries. The budget and duties related to this policy should be then divided between the northern and southern part and it should also be defined more precisely how the funds will be used. The neighborhood policy should then be perceived by the states as a subset of broader foreign political challenges facing the European Union.

As the insufficient success rate of the European Neighborhood Policy is given by the hybrid character of this policy, it should be therefore undergo a radical change. For example, bilateral agreements should be replaced by thematic cooperating groups, which would deal for example with migration or energy policy. It is also important to conduct revisions of the already undertaken activities and these should then be used to set priorities of this policy. It is also important to distinguish the inner core of the neighboring countries, which want to cooperate in a more effective and a faster manner, from the other neighboring countries. The northern part of the neighborhood should concentrate on forming a united attitude of the individual countries towards Russia and its southern part should focus mainly on migration. A more solid cooperation with Turkey should also be revived. Finally, it is important to create a map of priorities and interests of the neighboring countries so that the Union has a simple overview of the current situation.

(The study can be downloaded here:

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