EU intensifies policy on support to reforms in neighbouring countries

In its annual Progress Reports, the European Commission takes stock of the concrete reform achievements made by countries within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2008 and identifies the areas where further efforts are needed. Individual country reports for each country with an ENP Action Plan and a sectoral report accompany the policy paper.

Despite a generally difficult context (global economic and financial crisis, conflict between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, Israel's intervention in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009), the EU’s relations with its neighbours have further intensified in 2008. Europe's partners have shown progress in reforming their economies and providing better opportunities for their societies through modernisation efforts, leading to many achievements in key areas of cooperation such as much closer political contacts, increased trade, deeper cooperation on research and innovation, more youth mobility, etc.

In its policy paper on the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the Commission provides an overview of developments in 12 ENP countries, also highlighting the impact of the financial crisis on them and proposing a number of ways the EU could contribute to their recovery process.

Ties were also substantially strengthened through two new regional frameworks which complement the differentiated bilateral relations: the Union for the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership. Building on the Barcelona Process, the Union for the Mediterranean has given renewed vigour to Europe’s relationship with its Southern neighbours. The European Commission has also proposed an ambitious Eastern Partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, offering a wide and ambitious agenda for deepening the EU's ties to these countries.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy pointed out that “year 2008 has clearly demonstrated the strategic importance of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The economic and financial crisis, violent conflicts in our neighbourhood and political instability all impact on the security and prosperity of EU citizens. Therefore, it remains crucial for the EU to provide tangible, targeted and credible support to our neighbours to create mutual security and prosperity dividends”.

Main results of European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

  • Political cooperation was strengthened
  • Economic integration and trade exchanges were boosted
  • Visa facilitation and fight against illegal migration
  • Cooperation on justice
  • Energy cooperation entered into new phase
  • Transport links are strengthened

The EU assistance to ENP partners has also increased in 2008: €1.71 billion was committed in comparison to €1.67 billion committed in 2007.