Southern Partners

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) covers Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia. It consists of bilateral policies between the EU and the 10 individual partner countries, plus a regional cooperation framework, the Union for the Mediterranean. The EU boosted support for democratic transformation under the ENP in 2011, in response to the uprisings in its southern neighbourhood. It further reviewed the ENP in 2015.

Legal basis

  • Article 8 of the Treaty on European Union;
  • Title V of the Treaty on European Union: the EU’s ‘external action’;
  • Articles 206-207 (trade) and 216-219 (international agreements) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

Instruments

Association agreements provide the legal basis for the EU’s bilateral relations with Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and Tunisia. The association agreement initialled with Syria before the Syrian Government’s violent crackdown on public protests in 2011 was never signed. The negotiations for an EU-Libya framework agreement were suspended in February 2011 and have yet to be resumed.

In the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy, the EU and its southern partners (except Algeria, Libya and Syria) have adopted bilateral action plans. These establish agendas for political and economic reform with short- and medium-term priorities of between three and five years. Reflecting the needs, interests and capacities of the EU and each partner, ENP action plans are aimed, in particular, at developing democratic, socially equitable and inclusive societies, promoting economic integration and education, developing small and medium-sized enterprises and agriculture, and facilitating the movement of people across borders.

These plans are mostly funded by the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) and other thematic instruments. Support is also provided through loans by the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Every year, the Commission and the European External Action Service publish their assessment of the cooperation with each partner in ENP progress reports.

The EU is also seeking to advance market access and cooperation on migration and mobility issues with its southern partners. Negotiations on Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs) are in progress with Morocco and with Tunisia. Morocco was the first country from the Mediterranean region to enter into a mobility partnership with the EU, in June 2013, opening the way to visa facilitation and readmission agreements. This was followed by a partnership with Tunisia in March 2014 and Jordan in October 2014. The EU is hoping to close the negotiations on the Mobility Partnership with Lebanon soon. More dialogues with other Southern Mediterranean countries are under consideration.

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), launched in 2008 to revive the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, provides a regional framework for cooperation between the EU Member States and 15 Mediterranean countries, including the 10 southern partners.

Current status

a.Algeria

As a major regional player and an important energy producer, Algeria is a key EU partner in the southern neighbourhood. An association agreement entered into force in 2005. Negotiations on an ENP action plan started in 2012 and are still in progress. Cooperation between the partners focuses on political and socio-economic reforms, the fight against corruption, security, and energy cooperation.

b.Egypt

Relations between the European Union and Egypt are governed by an association agreement, in force since 2004, and follow the objectives set out in the 2007 ENP action plan. After the Egyptian revolution in 2011, the EU committed to supporting the country’s political, economic and social reforms. However, progress in those fields has been limited, as the country went through a complex phase of political instability. On 11 October 2016, the EU and Egypt signed a EUR 129 million package of financial assistance to support socio-economic development in Egypt. Egypt also benefits from funding under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa.

c.Israel

EU-Israel relations are extensive, underpinned by strong economic and trade relations and technical cooperation. Based on the 2000 Association Agreement, the relationship developed dynamically in subsequent years, with a substantial expansion across many sectors. In 2009, the EU decided that, in order for relations to be upgraded to ‘advanced’ status, there would have to be progress in the Middle East peace process. The expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories is considered a threat to a two-state solution. Cooperation continues, however, on the basis of the 2005 ENP action plan. In 2013, the EU offered Israel and the future state of Palestine ‘Special Privileged Partnerships’ providing an unprecedented package of political, economic and security support to both parties in the context of a final status agreement.

d.Jordan

The EU considers Jordan an important partner that exercises a stabilising role in the Middle East. The EU-Jordan Association Agreement, in force since May 2002, provides the legal basis for this bilateral relationship. An ENP Action Plan was adopted in 2012 and new EU-Jordan Partnership Priorities as well as a compact were agreed in December 2016. Within the ENP, Jordan is the first Mediterranean partner country with which the EU has concluded technical negotiations leading to an ‘Advanced Status’. In October 2014 the EU and Jordan launched a mobility partnership. Jordan was granted a first macro-financial assistance (MFA) package, worth EUR 180 million, in 2013. In December 2016, the EU decided to grant a second MFA, amounting to a maximum of EUR 200 million for 2016-2017. In response to the Syrian crisis — Jordan is host to over 655 000 Syrian refugees — the Commission has provided more than EUR 680 million in assistance to refugees and vulnerable communities, in addition to regular programmed assistance to Jordan. At the conference ‘Supporting Syria and the Region’, held in London on 4 February 2016, the EU pledged to provide EUR 1 billion to Jordan and Lebanon in support of Syrian refugees and host communities. Jordan is a recipient of the ‘Madad Fund’, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, which was established in December 2014 to enable a more coherent and integrated EU response to the crisis.

e.Lebanon

Relations are based on the EU-Lebanon Association Agreement, in force since 2006, and follow the roadmap set out in the 2013-2015 ENP Action Plan, and new EU-Lebanon Partnership Priorities as well as a compact were agreed in November 2016. The EU supports Lebanon’s unity, stability, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly given the deteriorating situation in neighbouring Syria. A country of 4.4 million inhabitants, Lebanon currently hosts around 1 million registered Syrian refugees. In December 2014, the EU and Lebanon initiated a dialogue on migration, mobility and security, which may lead to the establishment of a mobility partnership. At the conference ‘Supporting Syria and the Region’, held in London on 4 February 2016, the EU pledged to provide EUR 1 billion to Jordan and Lebanon in support of Syrian refugees and host communities. Since the beginning of the crisis, the Commission has provided close to EUR 800 million in assistance to refugees and vulnerable communities, in addition to regular programmed assistance to Lebanon. Lebanon is a recipient of the ‘Madad Fund’, the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, which was established in December 2014 to enable a more coherent and integrated EU response to the crisis.

f.Libya

Since the fall of the Gaddafi regime, Libya has been sliding into civil war, against the background of complex political, territorial, social and tribal divisions. Libya is also known as a Sahelian transit route for human trafficking and contraband. In this context, the EU is seeking to assist Libyans in establishing a stable and inclusive state. The Union supports the UN mediation efforts to bring an end to hostilities and makes diplomatic approaches to Libyan and regional stakeholders. A Common Security and Defence Policy mission was deployed in 2013 to help build up the country’s capacity to manage its borders. However, the mission had to be relocated to Tunis. There are no contractual relations between Libya and the EU, but the country is eligible for funding under the European Neighbourhood Instrument.

g.Morocco

Of the southern partners, Morocco has one of the most developed relationships with the EU. An association agreement has been in force since 2000 and a new ENP action plan was adopted in 2013. The country was granted ENP ‘advanced status’ in 2008, reflecting the ambition to strengthen EU-Morocco cooperation and to further support economic and political reforms. Migration issues are a priority. The EU-Morocco mobility partnership was launched in June 2013. Morocco is the first country in the region to have started negotiations on a visa facilitation scheme and a DCFTA with the EU. In addition, a renewed fisheries agreement entered into force in 2014. In December 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on appeal that the EU could implement its agreements with Morocco but that these agreements did not apply to Western Sahara.

h.Palestine

The EU is the leading supporter of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The overall objective of EU support is to help build the capacities of a future viable, independent and democratic Palestinian state, coexisting in peace and security with Israel and other neighbours. The legal basis for the EU’s relations with the PA is the Interim Association Agreement on Trade and Cooperation concluded in 1997. The EU and the PA signed an ENP Action Plan in 2013. In 2013, the EU offered Israel and the future state of Palestine ‘Special Privileged Partnerships’ providing an unprecedented package of political, economic and security support to both parties in the context of a final status agreement.

i.Syria

After the Syrian Government began to violently repress anti-government protests in March 2011, the EU took a number of increasingly restrictive measures against the Syrian regime. All bilateral cooperation programmes between the EU and the Syrian Government have been suspended. The EU supports inclusive peace talks towards a Syrian-led political transition. Since the onset of the conflict, the EU, together with its Member States, has contributed more than EUR 6.6 billion to assist Syrians in their country and refugees and host communities in the region. A further EUR 3 billion were pledged at the London Conference on the Syria crisis in February 2016. The EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the ‘Madad Fund’, adopted a package of programmes, the single biggest EU measure in response to the Syrian refugee crisis to date. The Council adopted new conclusions on an EU strategy on Syria on 3 April 2017, ahead of the Brussels Conference on ‘Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region’ of 4 and 5 April 2017 (hosted by the EU, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, Qatar, the UK and the UN). The co-chairs issued a declaration following the conference. The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the EU strategy on Syria on 18 May 2017.

j.Tunisia

Since the 2011 Tunisian revolution, the EU has provided political, financial and technical support for the country’s democratic transition. The consensual adoption of a new constitution in Tunisia in January 2014 and the successful organisation of parliamentary and presidential elections in October-December 2014 were a major step forward. In 2014, taking account of the substantial progress achieved, the EU and Tunisia agreed to establish a ‘privileged partnership’. The legal basis of the bilateral relationship remains the association agreement, which has been in force since 1998. Supported by an ENP action plan for the period 2013-2017, the privileged partnership is aimed at strengthening political cooperation and economic integration. Tunisia and the EU launched a mobility partnership in March 2014. Negotiations on a DCFTA started in October 2015.

Role of the European Parliament

Parliament is fully involved in the European Neighbourhood Policy. Through its Committee on Foreign Affairs, its monitors the implementation of the ENP, in particular with regard to ENP annual progress reports and ENP reviews. The committee follows the political situation in partner countries through regular exchanges of views with high-level government officials, experts and civil society stakeholders. Budgetary powers give Parliament direct influence on the amounts allocated to the European Neighbourhood Instrument. Parliament’s consent has been required for the conclusion of all association agreements with Southern ENP partners. Parliament must also consent to any new trade agreement, including future DCFTAs with Morocco and Tunisia.

Regular bilateral relations with the parliaments of southern partner countries are maintained through standing delegations. The depth of the parliamentary relationship is linked to a large extent to the advancement of relations under the ENP. Relations with the Moroccan parliament were thus upgraded with the creation of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) in 2010, and a JPC with Tunisia was also created in 2016. Parliamentary relations with Syria were suspended due to the civil war, and the current context in Libya is also preventing inter-parliamentary relations. At regional level, the European Parliament participates in the Parliamentary Assembly of the UfM, which holds one plenary session per year and several committee meetings. Parliament has taken part in several EU Election Observation Missions in recent years, including in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia. It also provides assistance to Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan, three priority countries under its democracy support programme.

Kirsten Jongberg / Sabrina Saoudi

06/2017