EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has timidly acknowledged that the neighbourhood policy of the Barroso Commission may have been naïve or confrontational.
But she stressed that would be remedied in four months’ time, when the consultation on the future of the Union’s neighbourhood policy, launched today (4 March), was completed.
Asked if the EY’s neighbourhood policy has often been naïve and if Brussels has underestimated the Russian response to Ukraine’s association with the EU, Mogherini said she would not be “over-critical”. The EU is currently locked in a political stand-off with the Kremlin.
The Commission consultation on the future of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) covers EU relations with 16 countries, ten in the Mediterranean and six in Eastern Europe. Commission President jean-Claude Juncker had promised to reassess the ENP in the first year of his mandate.
“The sense of a process of review is evaluating what didn’t work, with partners and also internally. Self-criticism will be part of it. I would not be over-critical of the past,” said Mogherini. She added that the new Commission could “clearly see the negative limits” of the policy so far.
“I’m not skipping the question, but it’s not fair to, on the day we launch the process of dialogue with our partners, access if the policy has been naïve or confrontational. Maybe this is a question to be asked in four months, after we would have completed the process of consultation,” Mogherini said.
The aim of the Commission is to consult as widely as possible, both with partners in the neighbouring countries and with stakeholders across the EU, until the end of June. After this, a communication setting out proposals for the future direction of the ENP will follow in the autumn.
The Commission recognises that today’s EU neighbourhood is less stable than ten years ago, with a conflict in Ukraine, an increasingly assertive Russian foreign policy, a civil war in Syria and conflict in Libya.
“The ENP has not always been able to offer adequate responses to these recent developments, nor to the changing aspirations of our partners. Therefore, the EU’s own interests have not been fully served either,” the ten page consultation paper says.
The EU executive also notes that a “one-size-fits-all” approach with neighbours doesn’t work. “The review needs to answer the demands of partners with very different levels of ambition,” the paper says.
The consultation also raises questions which governments and other stakeholders are expected to answer. “What could be done better to ensure greater coherence between the ENP and the EU’s relations with Russia?”, it asks.