Europe is surrounded by a ring of fire. From the Caucasus mountains to North Africa, the European Union’s dream of building a stable, prosperous neighbourhood is floundering desperately. The contrast with the peaceful transition of Eastern European countries from socialist economies to market democracies (and eventual EU members) following the fall of the Soviet Union is stark.

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was launched in 2003 to strengthen relations with Eastern and Southern neighbour countries around Europe. There are currently 16 countries in the ENP, and they don’t exactly present a picture of peace, stability, and human rights.

Of the 16 ENP countries: Ukraine has undergone a revolution, followed by the annexing of Crimea by Russia, and a brutal civil war; Belarus remains ‘Europe’s last dictatorship’, with President Alexander Lukashenko winning a 5th term in office at the end of 2015; the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on; six years after Gadhafi’s death, numerous armed groups are still tearing Libya apart; Egypt’s brief flirtation with democracy ended in a military coup; Armenia and Azerbaijan are fighting a low-intensity conflict with periodic bloody escalations; and the Syrian civil war remains one of the most violent and brutal of the 21st Century.

Curious to know more about the European Neighbourhood Policy? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).


We had a comment sent in from Anne, arguing that the European Neighbourhood Policy was supposed to support prosperity, stability, and security in the EU’s neighbourhood without further EU enlargement. But a look at the countries along Europe’s South and East shows – with some notable exceptions – a string of civil wars, human rights abuses, and terrorism. Has the European Neighbourhood Policy been a failure?

To get a response, we spoke to David Cadier, Visiting Senior Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. What would he say?

cadierI agree the European Neighbourhood Policy has not succeeded in its original objectives. Indeed, there has not been a major wave of democratisation, permanent peace, and thriving prosperity at Europe’s borders. But I would point out that the ENP’s initial objectives were not as ambitious as the extent of the problems that Anne is pointing to, and I think the failure of the ENP is precisely about the EU’s failure to find a foreign policy that goes beyond enlargement.

For another reaction, we talked to Susi Dennison, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. How would she respond to Anne?

dennisonI think it’s a very fair point. I think what I would say is that the European Neighbourhood Policy was designed in a very different time to the situation in which Europe now finds itself. The thinking behind it – of developing a ‘ring of friends’ – was based on the presumption that the states on Europe’s borders would want, over time, to become more like Europe. And I think it’s clear that this kind of assumption can no longer be taken for granted. And, clearly, Europe now has to take into account a shift in the balance of power that means we are just as reliant on our neighbours now on issues like migration, or exporting stability, and I think nowhere is that clearer than in the relationship between the EU and Turkey over the last six months.

So, I think that the European Neighbourhood Policy has not achieved what it set out to do, but that said I’m not sure that, in the kind of turbulent environment which Europe is in now, that was realistic. I think what is needed now are more tailored relationships that understand the specific dynamics at play and the interests of Europe and the partner country involved, and builds on the that basis. That’s not to say that Europe can’t have a more successful relationship with its neighbourhood, but I think it’s unlikely to be achieved at a more general level.

Has the European Neighbourhood Policy been a failure? How did Europe’s dream of a “ring of friends” turn into a “ring of fire”, from Ukraine to Syria? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Tambako The Jaguar
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.


81 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Andrej Němec

    Let’s face the truth: the EU doesn’t work, among other reasons, because it is attempting to step on Russia ‘ s feet to follow Washington’s agenda.
    Why not to propose to Russia to join instead of attempting all the time to bring it down (by trying to getting Ukraine, a Country with more ties with Russia than any other)? Stop sanctions, freeze NATO expansion, try to get trade agreements with Russia. Ukraine is not less corrupted or less undemocratic than Putins’s Russia.
    The EU doesn’t need to pick up fight fights it cannot clearly win. Let’s change strategy, maybe it will work..

  2. avatar
    Julia Hadjikyriacou

    The root problem in the ring of fire is greed, money and power as is the case wherever there is conflict. No more expansions. The EU works better with stable and civilised countries whose corruptions of greed, money and power can be dealt with through regulations.

  3. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar


    The corrupt and undemocratic EU has enough basketcases as it is – it doesn’t need more hyper-basketcases; indeed it needs to contract in size or restart altogether.

  4. avatar
    George Singleton

    Why you ask for?For the same Europeans was succesfull?Here EU is destroying millions of European how could you consider that would be able to succeed with the neightbors?

  5. avatar

    EU is just a idea a concept and in reality it doesn’t work at all! we loose more than we create whether it is economical or political

    EU was a dream, lets go back to the way things were! you look at countries around Europe they are broke look at France, Spain and many others .. Portugal was almost bought by its old colony … Greece come a little bit out of the water and lets not talk about eastern Europe…. its a disaster… we allowed poor country in Europe… so economically its a disaster

    Furthermore corruption, greed is the core the EU… we do not have leaders in our own countries just politicians that side with big corporations … politicians are a puppet of Big Corporations. this world does not get better! we have lost our values.

  6. avatar
    Siva Nesan Jesu

    Yes, it has to be a failure, so long as the status of minkind after fall of Doctrinnaire Socialism is NOT clearly defined, and in that definition any role to barbarian Islam is Definitely denied.

  7. avatar
    Alfredo Iannuzzi

    In my opinion EU policy is a total failure not only towards its neighbors by mainly within its member states.

  8. avatar
    Totis Miliotis

    ..and where is the proof that the situation would be better without the EU?Many times we do not appreciate what we have.Nevertheless , i believe that the “wrong point ” was the enlargement instead of a more “deep” union.

  9. avatar
    Jure Šterman

    The EU cannot focus on any form of foreign policy properly, until it focuses within it’s borders first. How can we possibly take care of our neighbours if we can’t take care of ourselves? Our so called ”stability” hangs on a knife edge. If we create stability for ourselves first, then, and only then, can we focus on others that need our help. But this sudden influx of unregistered ”migrants” is the exact opposite of what I said above. Instead of helping ourselves and others, we are creating more instability. More friction and dissent. Sooner or later, the EU leaders will have to face a terrible truth. That the people they represent can no longer take such abuse.

  10. avatar
    Silvio Bosco

    it is a big crisis but a crisis is also an excellent opportunity: let s win back the Ventotene spirit and good work to everyone

  11. avatar
    Lynda Germon

    Basically that the EU countries don’t all have too much in common …Benelux …makes sense, but they don’t have to much in common with latin countries. That is just an example …lots of countries still aren’t that wild about Germany …ect…..etc….etc…

    • avatar
      Chris Brown

      That’s what I was going to say, but shorter!

  12. avatar

    I don’ t think Europe is a failure: its foundation has brought to peace and stability up to now. The question of immigration is a terrible challenge and all states will have to cope with it finding a common way. I am hopeful about it…

  13. avatar
    Leonard Prifti

    Yes it has failed in some countries, which is the EU police for Macedonia? Why EU is stopping The integration of Macedonia in NATO?

  14. avatar
    Leonard Prifti

    Yes it has failed in some countries, which is the EU police for Macedonia? Why EU is stopping The integration of Macedonia in NATO?

  15. avatar

    Unfortunately at this time quite a few of Europe’s neighbors are troubled neighbors more or less. Europe “live and let live, but don’t bother me” policy doesn’t seems to work well in Syria, Libya or Turkey. I have no clue about the effects of policy of ambiguity (if any) regardless Ukraine, Moldova or Serbia.

  16. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Please stop all these piecemeal and disingenuous democratic attempts!
    To get dis-entangled from the present malaise- go back to begin & start afresh!

    The criteria for a newly constituted core EU membership- incl. ENP etc- must change, its standards raised & the mischievous US influence- who is not a European country- only considered a friend- not master! Due to past persistent bad EC judgments, the decision of EU eligibility should be “rewritten” (Constitution), passing referendums & thereafter taken away from the (bad) influence & rule of the present “professional” politicians & the elite. Overseen by a newly constituted European Constitutional court. Not at the whim of any Chancellors.

    The new entry criteria has to be EARNED- based on achievements measured to benefit its citizens first- not corporations! The “World Happiness Criteria” should be seriously considered- instead the present EU legal mambo-jumbo!


  17. avatar
    Enric Mestres Girbal

    The EU has failed the europeans…the neighbours had not only been deceived but also destroyed by EU silly policies. The EEM was good…the EU needs desapear.

  18. avatar
    Peter Josika

    Unfortunately there is no such thing as a general EU policy towards her neighbors as foreign policy is still in total control of the nation states….

  19. avatar
    Valerio Jeson Maggi

    Beggar-thy-neighbor. If you look up to a usual economic book you’ll find it. Or even history books in the chapters of the years between the two wars. But someone would still say:” this time is different”

  20. avatar
    Dan Florin

    Sure, EU was never ment to be anything else but an economic strategy for the rich countries, those who imposed the privatisation of all important assets in the soon to be members.

  21. avatar
    catherine benning

    It depends what is meant by its neighbours. Which ones? The failure is to it’s own people.

    When you dance with the bad and the ugly, you consume their horror. Europe was set up in order to be at peace with itself. Not at war as mercenaries for other continents.

  22. avatar

    The EU establishment is strategically naive and totally submissive.
    It is playing a role ascribed to the EU by the hegemon USA – the EU as a “power from Venus”, whereas the US a “power from Mars”. Results we can see, for example, in he current migration crisis. Instead of the promised robust Schengen external border management the interests of Europe’s people are sold out to neighbours like Turkey.

    The German chancler, Angela Merkel, not only had to accept that the NSA listened in on her mobile phone but now is bowing down even to Turkey’s Erdogan in a case against a German journalists. If G. W. Bush ever said anything right than it was when he spoke about “surrender monkeys” with respect to the European establishment.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      ……………….but it goes further:

      is Merkel competing more & more with Kim Jong-un & Robert Mugabe? How much longer can she disguise the fact that Germany is still a “totalitarian state”- before being “liberated” in 1945? Believable or not? Nobody saw it coming in 1933- can one see it now? More specific:

      Article 5 of the “German basic (constitutional) law” states:

      (1) Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing and pictures, and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.


      Paragraph 103 of the German criminal code seems to be able to “override” the Freedom of expression which is granted by Article 5 of the Basic Law Federal Republic of Germany- to bow to a fellow dictator?

      It also seems to contradict Article 79 paragraph (3) “The Eternity Clause” (Ewigkeitsklausel) No changes allowed! It gets more & more ridiculous!

  23. avatar
    Chris Brown

    Not just this policy.
    The over-rapid expansion of the EU (and the breaking of its own rules to enable that to happen) has meant a mix of economies far too diverse to be made to work in harmony without dangerous stress, strains and frank incompatibilities.
    And rather than stopping and consolidating, more are planned.
    This is now involving countries which Russia has seen (justified or not) as part of its sphere of influence, or buffer against the west. That won’t make friends there.
    The core EU policy has been going wrong, ever since it wanted to be more than a free-trade area.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive


  24. avatar
    Carla Niculescu

    Certainly the NEP didn’t bring the results it was deisgned for, but we cannot disregard the global situation, the inequalities which conduct a paramount role in today’s crisis across the world. Mantaining stabile and prosperous neighours was a forward-looking and remarkable policy. The problem is that after many enlargements Europe should have focused more in safeguarding the new member states, enhance democracy and economic stability there. In addition countries like Russia operated to destabilize Eastern Europe (Georgia, Moldova,etc), not to mention the rise of islamists terroritic groups in Africa and MIddle East.

  25. avatar
    Danny Boy

    What you have to realize when dealing with vile dictatorships like Russia and Turkey is that negotiation is all very well,but at the end you have to carry the threat of military action.And that’s the problem with the E.U, it carries no threat or credibility on the world stage.It’s only genuine military power is on the verge of leaving,and it’s only genuine economic power would rather just bribe these countries with the promise of visas and billions of Euros.

  26. avatar
    Michael O'Dwyer Connolly

    EU shouldn’t have given its backing to America destabilising most of those countries, that’s why the friendly neighbourhood doesn’t exist.

  27. avatar
    Ivan Burrows


    Like everything else the EU touches it is a disaster.

    Try thinking of one thing the EU has done that as not turned into a complete mess or a crisis ……….. just one.

  28. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    EU has nothing to do with it . OK they are some gangs having big business in those countries and they support some people there . Some of them are in the European Parliament but for the most they are organised round church spiders . Those conflict there are for the most about religion , corruption and problem with democracy .

  29. avatar
    Rosy Forlenza

    charity begins at home, stop dreaming and sort out your own house before extending invites to the party

  30. avatar
    Sebastien Chopin

    Well longest running period in history without any wars in Europe… speaks for itself… except if you count every little minor setback… which people do when they have time to count the pasta

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      Sebastian, some have chosen a different starting premise from those feeling quite satisfied & happy not having to take up arms & going to war (like so many unfortunate ones, close to us & globally) but who feel safe in a regime of low expectations and narrow horizons which they create around themselves.

      Please don’t get disturbed while celebrating with Pizza’s & a variation of Pasta’s!

  31. avatar
    Dobromir Panchev

    If EU leaders are not smart enough to prevent it, EU will become victim of the hate between USA and Russia.

  32. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    SIMPLE : corruption and crime . EU has corrupt lobby , that lobby try to cut of Russian gas and oil and connect the EU to Turkey and Arabs. Russians are angry because they have huge damage and Arabs are angry because they want to enter the EU , stop imports from Russia and sell oil and gas to the EU . The only option is to STOP all oil and gas imports and import only from Russia , Norway , Canada and US . 100% wind , solar and hydro is very simple and cheap to achieve.

    NOTHING is more simple and cheaper for the EU than to create energy security but the EU is barrier to it. I could do it , I could solve energy supply for the EU for the next 50 Years for less money then the EU spend under 5 Years for import of dirty energy . HOW ? The tariffs on Chinese made solar panels range from 100% to 110% , we should have it 0% and 0% on electric cars . Remove all tariffs on Chinese made solar panels and help EU manufacturing with example 0,2 Euro/Watt . 100% solar, wind and hydro is very cheap and clean option for the EU. Price for solar panels is under 0,5 Euro/Watt . EU could simple order 2000 gigawatt solar panels for 1000 billion Euro . EU should give for free 10 to 50 kW of solar panels to all EU citizens ( 10 – 500 kW to farmers) willing to install it by themselves . They should pay off those panels with electricity they don’t use also with electricity they send back to the grid. To install it like this is simple and cheap , it is like IKEA furniture : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z04p6-zK5-o
    When we have energy we don’t need we should produce hydrogen and store it : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNHwi6IryNI

  33. avatar
    Andreas Stergiopoulos

    Bringing Russia in the EU is a fatal mistake. EU must pursue to become a deμocratic alternative to the bipolar system that exists today. For that to be done, it needs to stop following the american agenda, become less involved in NATO, stop flirting with Russia and Turkey and strengthen the bonds between it’s member states.

  34. avatar
    Silvio Bosco

    Because of the incapacity of the European sovereign national States/Regimes to deal with the modern complexity

  35. avatar
    Eduardo Branco

    4 things that should not have been: Western intervention in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

  36. avatar
    Peter Jedrychowski

    happen because politicians are corrupt they not serious at his declarations and more than his own citizens love money and positions

  37. avatar
    Christian Tierney-Hancock

    The world has been at war since mankind came into existence. However, the “ring of friends” is a great ideal. In fact, only a tiny minority in each of these countries turn it into a “ring of fire”. And eventually, moderate and peacful majorities in these countries will prevail, so it is not a wasted policy.

  38. avatar
    Jeremy Bornstein

    Europe under ((Washington’s))influence thinks poking the bear with a stick and putting out Merkas fires will help their own and create world ((peace))

  39. avatar
    Akis Muto

    I didnt know that this was actualy called a “policy”. I mostly understood it as random reactions

  40. avatar
    Faddi Zsolt

    This “ring of fire” was made by the USA! Ukrainian civil war was provocated by USA and is forced the EU to make sanctions against Russia. But it was a failure, and last but not least, some countries didn’t put Russia under sanctions! Syrian civil war was endorsed and supported by USA. Lybia was destroyed by USA, and Yugoslavia was destroyed by USA! So, it is obvious, that flaming neighbours of EU are fed by the USA. Generating chaos and death is in america’s interest!

  41. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Not that it has, is still is!
    Europe cannot pretend to fix the problem with the same mindset it had when it created it. Europe has to get out of the box and think again about what world does it want to create!

  42. avatar

    Peace be on the earth.
    It is the good news.

  43. avatar

    What this world needs is the peace that passes all misunderstanding.
    World peace through Angel service (Revelation 7:1-2)

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