2012 has been a challenging year in the EU’s neighbourhood, with democratic transitions proving long and often difficult in the South and uneven in the East.
Thus the EU Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Štefan Füle described the situation to the Heads of EU Delegations of the Neighbourhood region during their meeting in Brussels on February 15. However, he cited some advances on democratic elections in the South and more signs of positive developments in the East, from Moldova in particular.
He said it was difficult for partners to embark on complex reforms against the backdrop of the crisis in Europe but insisted it was “not the time to change our course. We need to show strategic patience, focus on implementation and on making our offer more attractive to our partners, and more in line with their needs.”
The next ENP package, due to be adopted on 20 March, will include a communication, twelve country progress reports, two regional reports on East and South and a report with quantitative indicators of progress towards reform, the Commissioner said.
Füle touched upon the challenges of implementing the "more for more" principle, in particular finding the way to measure progress, and said the EU would continue to offer partners as tangible incentives the 3Ms - money, market access and mobility of people.
The 2013 Communication, the Commissioner said, will stress the need for differentiation and for joint ownership with partners, as well as the need for better communication with stakeholders in partner countries, including civil society.
The Commissioner cited recent meetings, with senior officials of Southern partners on 5 November and of Eastern partners on 4 December, as “good discussions in a spirit of joint ownership.” Partners stressed the principle of differentiation, he said, with Southern partners asking for more sustained political dialogue with the EU and Eastern partners being keen on making progress in relations with the EU by the November Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
Füle stressed his firm commitment to the involvement of civil society in the ENP and called on the EU Delegations to hold a regular dialogue not only with authorities, but also with civil society in their countries ("structured dialogue").
He also supported the idea of engaging the business circles in the dialogue, noting that “Business communities can potentially be important allies in stimulating transformation in partner countries.”
The Commissioner also touched upon the ENI (European Neighbourhood Instrument), which is due to replace the ENPI (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument). One of the key aspects for the ENI during the next programming period will be the implementation of the “incentive based approach” (”more-for-more”), Füle said, adding that there would be a direct link between progress reports and extra assistance.
“We hope the future ENI Regulation will allow for the necessary flexibility to respond effectively and swiftly to challenges in partner countries and reward their performance,” the Commissioner said.