The European Neighbourhood Policy

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) applies to Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. It aims to strengthen the prosperity, stability and security of all. It is based on democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and is a bilateral policy between the EU and each partner country, with regional cooperation initiatives: the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean[1].

Legal basis

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

General objectives

Through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU offers its neighbours a privileged relationship, building on a mutual commitment to common values (democracy and human rights, the rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development). The ENP includes political coordination and deeper economic integration, increased mobility and people-to-people contacts. The level of ambition of the relationship depends on the extent to which these values are shared. The ENP remains distinct from the process of enlargement, although this does not prejudge how relations between neighbouring countries and the EU may develop in the future. In 2011, the EU reviewed the ENP and, responding to developments in Arab countries, strengthened its focus on promoting deep and sustainable democracy and inclusive economic development. Deep and sustainable democracy includes in particular free and fair elections, efforts to combat corruption, judicial independence, democratic control over the armed forces, and the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. The EU also stressed the role that civil society plays in the process and introduced the ‘more for more’ principle, according to which the Union develops stronger partnerships with those neighbours that make greater progress towards democratic reform. In March 2015, the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) launched a consultation process for a new review of the ENP. One of its main aims was to adapt the policy’s tools to take better account of the specific aspirations of partner countries. In this context, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 9 July 2015 underlining the need for a more strategic, focused, flexible and coherent ENP. A communication from the EEAS and the Commission along these lines and based on the results of the consultation was presented on 11 November 2015.

On 18 May 2017, the EEAS and the Commission published a report on the implementation of the ENP review. The report highlighted the more flexible and sensitive approach demonstrated by the EU in its cooperation with the ENP partners and the more efficient use of resources. On 27 March 2019, Parliament passed a resolution on the post-Arab Spring and the way forward for the MENA region, which acknowledged some democratic gains in the region but also called for further economic, democratic and social reforms.


The ENP builds upon the legal agreements in place between the EU and its partners — Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCAs) and, more recently, Association Agreements (AAs).

Central to the ENP are the bilateral action plans and partnership priorities that have been drawn up between the EU and most of the partner countries. These establish political and economic reform agendas with short- and medium-term priorities (three to five years). ENP action plans and partnership priorities reflect the needs, interests and capacities of the EU and each partner. They seek to develop democratic, socially equitable and inclusive societies, to promote economic integration and to improve the movement of people across borders.

The EU supports the fulfilment of the ENP objectives through financial support as well as political and technical cooperation. Funds are mostly delivered through the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), with an allocation for 2014-2020 of EUR 15.4 billion. Other instruments and programmes, such as the Civil Society Facility, are used to finance the ENP. The Commission also provides financial support in the form of grants to partners, and the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development complement this support through loans.

In addition, new tools have been developed under the ENP to advance market access, in particular through the negotiation of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs), and to enhance mobility and the management of migration. As such, mobility partnerships and visa facilitation/liberalisation have been offered and concluded with some partners, while a dedicated financial instrument — the Mobility Partnership Facility — was launched in 2016. In the Southern region, a number of regional and bilateral initiatives on migration and mobility are being funded under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the North of Africa window.

While the ENP is designed as a common policy toolbox, it also allows the EU to adapt and ‘differentiate’ its policy according to the specificities of each partner.

As part of discussions on the future multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2020-2027, the architecture and functioning of the EU’s external financing instruments, including the ENI, is being revisited. In this context, on 18 April 2018 Parliament adopted a report on the implementation of the EU’s external financing instruments, including the 2017 mid-term review and the future post-2020 architecture. As far as the ENI is concerned, the report called for further flexibility, a better use of the ‘more for more’ and incentive-based approaches and greater coordination between the regional and bilateral programmes.

On 14 June 2018, the Commission published a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). The proposal seeks to simplify the existing funding architecture of the EU’s external action for the next MFF period and integrates several financial instruments into the new NDICI, including the ENI. Parliament adopted its position at first reading on this proposal on 27 March 2019, calling for further funding, a greater role in the decision-making on secondary policy options, and for the suspension of assistance in cases of human rights violations.

Regional dimensions

A. Eastern Partnership (EaP)

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) was formed to ‘upgrade’ the EU’s relations with most of its eastern neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The EaP was agreed in 2008 and inaugurated in 2009, and builds on the ENP.

1. Objectives

The main goal of the EaP is to ‘accelerate political association and deepen economic integration’ between the EU and its eastern neighbours. The level of integration and cooperation reflects each partner country’s commitment to European values, standards and structures and its progress. The EaP aims to promote democracy and good governance, strengthen energy security, encourage sectoral reforms (including environmental protection), encourage people-to-people contacts, support economic and social development and offer additional funding for projects to reduce socio-economic imbalances and increase stability[2].

2. Structures

EaP summits are held every two years, with the participation of EU and partner countries’ heads of state or government and representatives of the European Parliament, the European Commission and the EEAS.

Participants at the fifth EaP Summit, held in Brussels on 24 November 2017, took stock of the achievements of the past two years and looked forward to implementing a joint staff working document[3], which proposed a more focused approach for delivering results under each of the four priorities set out in the Joint Declaration of the EaP Summit in Riga on 22 May 2015:

  • Economic development and market opportunities;
  • Strengthening of institutions and good governance;
  • Connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change;
  • Mobility and people-to-people contacts.

In the run-up to the summit, Parliament’s recommendations on the Eastern Partnership, adopted on 15 November 2017, provided ambitious and forward-looking input.

The Eastern Partnership’s multilateral track is based on four thematic platforms: democracy, good governance and stability; economic integration and convergence with EU policies; energy security; and contacts between people. Senior officials meet at least twice a year, and ministers for foreign affairs annually. The work of the platforms is sometimes promoted through sector-specific ministerial meetings.

Flagship initiatives have also been launched and include: an integrated border management programme; a facility for SMEs; regional electricity markets; and efforts to improve energy efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy sources, promote good environmental governance and prevent, prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters.

Established in 2011, the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly (PA)[4] is the parliamentary component of the EaP and is responsible for its consultation, supervision and monitoring. Its main goal is to bring together parliaments of the EaP countries and the European Parliament and to enhance people-to-people contacts, promote the active participation of civil society and engage more actively in cultural dialogue. It is rooted in mutual interests and commitments, and in the principles of differentiation, shared ownership and responsibility. One of its roles is to scrutinise the EU’s support for EaP countries, and it can also issue recommendations to the intergovernmental structures of the EaP with a view to fostering deeper political and economic integration of these countries with the EU.

The assembly has held eight ordinary sessions to date, most recently from 8 to 10 December 2019 in Tblisi. It comprises 60 Members of the European Parliament and 10 members from each partner country’s parliament. However, as the European Parliament does not recognise the Belarusian National Assembly as a democratically elected institution, no Belarusian ‘parliamentarians’ currently form part of Euronest. The Euronest PA has four standing committees, namely the Committee on Political Affairs, Human Rights and Democracy, the Committee on Economic Integration, Legal Approximation and Convergence with EU Policies, the Committee on Energy Security and the Committee on Social Affairs, Employment, Education, Culture and Civil Society.

In addition, an EaP Civil Society Forum[5] issues recommendations ‘to influence EU institutions and EaP national governments’.

B. Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)

The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) includes the 28 EU Member States, the European Union and 15 Mediterranean countries (Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Montenegro, Monaco, Morocco, Palestine, Syria (whose membership is suspended because of the civil war), Tunisia and Turkey). The League of Arab States has participated in all meetings since 2008 and Libya has observer status.

1. Objectives

The UfM constitutes a multilateral framework for political, economic and social relations between the European Union and the southern and eastern Mediterranean countries. It was launched in 2008 at the Paris Summit as a continuation of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Euromed), also known as the Barcelona Process. The UfM is inspired by the goals set out in the Barcelona Declaration (1995), namely to create an area of peace, stability, security and shared economic prosperity, with full respect for democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms, while promoting understanding between cultures and civilisations in the Euro-Mediterranean region.

2. Structures

The UfM is chaired by a co-presidency, highlighting the co-ownership that characterises the group. Since 2012, the European Union has assumed the northern co-presidency and Jordan the southern co-presidency. The main governing body of the UfM is the Senior Officials’ Meeting, which oversees and coordinates the UfM’s work. The Senior Officials’ Meeting also approves the budget and the work programme of the Secretariat, prepares meetings of foreign ministers and other ministerial configurations, and appoints the Secretary-General and the six Deputy Secretaries-General. The meeting also discusses the project proposals submitted by the Secretariat for approval and endorsement. The UfM Secretariat’s role consists, above all, in identifying, processing, promoting and coordinating technical projects in sectors such as transport, energy, water, environmental protection, higher education and mobility, research, social affairs, empowerment of women, employment and business development, all of which enhance cooperation and directly affect the livelihoods of citizens. The EU is the largest contributor to the UfM Secretariat’s budget.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the UfM builds on the work of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly and comprises 280 members: 132 EU members (83 members from the 28 EU national parliaments and 49 members from the European Parliament), eight members from European Mediterranean partner countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Monaco and Montenegro), 130 members from the 10 countries on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria (currently suspended), Tunisia and Turkey), and 10 members from Mauritania.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the UfM holds one plenary session per year; the most recent was in Strasbourg on 13 and 14 February 2019. It adopts resolutions or recommendations on all aspects of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation that concern the executive organs of the UfM, the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the national governments of partner countries. The European Parliament held the rotating presidency of the Parliamentary Assembly in 2018-2019, before handing it over to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in February 2019.

The Parliamentary Assembly has five standing committees, each consisting of 56 members:

  • Political Affairs, Security and Human Rights;
  • Economic and Financial Affairs, Social Affairs and Education;
  • Improving Quality of Life, Exchanges Between Civil Societies and Culture;
  • Energy, Environment and Water;
  • Women’s Rights in Euro-Mediterranean Countries.


[1]For information about bilateral relations between the EU and the Eastern partners and Mediterranean partners, please refer to the fact sheets on those topics (5.5.5; 5.5.6 and 5.5.7).
[2]For more information, please refer to the section of the EEAS website on the EaP.
[3]‘Eastern Partnership — 20 Deliverables for 2020: Focusing on key priorities and tangible results’.
[4]For more information about Euronest and its activities, please refer to the Assembly’s website.
[5]For more information about the civil society forum, please refer to the CSF website.

Mario Damen / Kirsten Jongberg