The importance of Neighborhood Policy for integrating and securing Europe

European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) focuses on coordinating the relationship between Europe and its neighboring countries. This is extremely important for the maintenance of stability and peace in Europe. Over the last decade the ENP has been broadening its scope and is moving towards the western Balkans and Eastern European countries.

What is Neighborhood Policy?

The European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) was created in 2004 and focuses on promoting prosperity, stability and guaranteeing security for Europe and its neighboring countries. It also encourages dialogue among countries so that any cross-border disputes and problems – such as with Greece and Macedonia – can be solved. The European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) assists the ENP throughout its actions and financially. (European Commission-Europeaid, 2012)

The EU promotes integration in the Western Balkans as a means to achieve stabilization. This is why the EU launched the Stabilization and Association Process (SAP) in 2000, which offers neighboring countries an opportunity to gradually enter the EU. (EU Institute for Security Studies, n.d.)

The European Union (EU) possesses a consistent neighborhood policy to coordinate the relationship with its neighboring countries in the east and the south: “Our Neighbourhood Policy provides us with a coherent approach that ensures that the whole of the EU is committed to deeper relations with all our neighbors. At the same time, it allows us to develop tailor-made relations with each country.” (Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy)

How does the ENP broaden its influence and scope?

The ENP primarily uses enlargement as a tool to encourage good governance, promote stability and strengthen security, amongst other goals. This enlargement has naturally led to the expansion of the EU into the Western Balkans as well as into Eastern European countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine which form part of the Eastern European Partnership (EaP). (EU external action, n.d.)

The EaP was launched in 2009 in Prague (Czech Republic) with the primary objective to: “support political and socio-economic reforms of the partner countries, facilitating approximation toward the European Union”. (Council of the European Union, 2011)

It is hoped that the EaP will treat the six new candidate member countries as a regional bloc and promote the creation of free trade areas between them. They will also receive millions of euros for financial help together with technological knowledge and security advice. In return, these countries have to promote democracy, the rule of law and obey human rights policies. (BBC, 2009)

Why is the ENP important in terms of guaranteeing security?

The combination of the EaP and the EU’s consistent neighborhood policy has become very important because what happens in eastern and southern Europe can affect the EU as a whole. (EU external action, n.d.) For example, the current territorial disputes in Eastern Europe between countries such as Armenia and Azerbaijan, around the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and Moldova and Ukraine over the Transnistria territory are inhibiting progress in the region as a whole and preventing the expansion of the EU into the east as well as causing tensions between Russia and Europe. (New Europe, 2012)

The Transnistria dispute is particularly interesting due to its links with Russia and the Kremlin. Transnistria is an independent state, with limited international recognition, located along a thin strip of land between Ukraine to the east and Moldova to the west. Moldova, like most of the international community, does not recognize the state as independent and considers the Transnistria territory as belonging to it. Transnistria is also under considerable influence from Russia being a former soviet state and with Russian troops still stationed there. The EU and the rest of the international community do not consider the governmental system of Transnistria to be democratic which has caused some tension between the EU and Russia, given the West’s agenda of introducing democracy to former Soviet countries. Additionally, Russia planned to give states such as Transnistria their missile technology. (Paraipan, 2005)(BBC, 2012)

The Transnistria dispute is not unique in eastern Europe; the break up of the former Soviet bloc led to a number of wars and similar territorial conflicts such as the aforementioned Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. One of the aims of the Eastern European Partnership (EaP) is to work towards the resolution of these disputes and conflicts. (BBC, 2012)

EAP as an example to the Balkans

The Western Balkans, an area with a similar history to that of the former eastern bloc, should take the Eastern European Partnership (EaP) as an example to follow. There is little doubt that it is exactly what the Western Balkans need after their post-war experience. During the Thessaloniki EU-Western Balkans summit in 2003, it was argued that the Balkans’ future is inside the EU. (EU Institute for Security Studies, n.d.) But without a similar initiative to help in resolving disputes such as Greece and Macedonia’s, there is little chance for Macedonia to join. Similarly, disputes such as the one between Kosovo and Serbia make it harder for the EU to accept Serbia as a member despite its candidate status.

Good neighborhood policy combined with a similar style of partnership to the EaP for the Balkan region could help solve Greece and Macedonia’s name dispute, and others, and to successfully integrate Macedonia and other Balkan countries into the EU.

*Cover image ‘european commission‘ by Stuart Chalmers

*This Article is based on the original work made for the Lecture “European Neighborhood Policy And Beyond”, which is part of the Master’s Curriculum at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Erfurt, Germany. It was published in cooperation with the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation.

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