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?
I 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?
I 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
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