MEPs slate EU’s ‘more for more’ approach to neighbourhood countries

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A draft European Parliament resolution calls for MEPs to have a greater say on European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which governs the EU's relations with countries situated on its southern and eastern borders.

In a Motion for a Resolution published on 26 August, MEPs asked to be “fully associated” in the implementation of the new ENP and kept regularly informed about progress in the partner countries.

MEPs criticised the services of Commissioner Štefan Füle for the ENP country reports they regularly produced, for what they saw as a lack of evaluation of the programmes carried by the Union, and missing recommendations regarding further allocation of funds.

The European Commission's regular progress reports covering all sixteen ENP countries [see background], published last March, revealed the EU executive's new “competitive approach” on foreign relations.

As part of the new ENP strategy, the Commission's foreign relations office, the EEAS, now flags the "more for more" principle, which rewards countries that make the most progress.

>> Read: EU's neighbourhood policy becoming more political, say experts

However, MEPs appear to doubt that the “differentiated approach” is implemented consistently and call for a more strict application of the “more for more” and “less for less” principles. They call for support to democratic transition to focus on the development of the institutional capacity of democratic institutions and on support to political parties.

The draft resolution slams those progress reports for describing the national situation without evaluating the programmes carried out by the Union or making concrete recommendations regarding the allocation of development cooperation assistance. It also takes the view that those reports should also contain comparative data regarding previous years.

Indeed, a brief look at the reports show that they describe the political, economic and social developments, as well as sectorial cooperation with the EU. The volume of EU aid in different areas is mentioned, but its impact is not measured.

As an example, in the report on Ukraine, various EU financial contributions to the country are mentioned, but in most of the cases no mention is made if this funding has produced the necessary effect.

Also, the 2012 reports contain no clear evaluation on the major differences with the respective country’s report concerning the previous year.

MEPs deplore that the European Parliament is not always consulted on the drawing-up of action plans or informed about the tenor of discussions. They call for the status of observer to be accorded to the European parliamentarians to take part in meetings of policy and human rights subcommittees.

Concerning the Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative of the Union, covering Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, MEPs call for its “decentralisation” offering its ownership to public actors on both sides through horizontal partnerships and twinning with EU national authorities and players.

Indeed, experts have taken the view that national programs are often less bureaucratic and more effective than EU action.

>> Read: Experts slam red tape in EU Eastern Partnership

MEPs also call on the countries covered by EaP to “close the gap” between rhetoric and practical action, to involve citizens and public actors in partnerships, and to pay greater attention to the multilateral structure of the initiative.

The draft resolution offers short, but sharp assessments of the individual situation with all ENP countries. In texts often as short as tweets, the situation with the EaP partners is described as follows:

  • Armenia: “[the Resolution] Recognises the progress made in democratic standards and in the fulfilment of Association Agreement requirements, but acknowledges that persistent deficiencies remain in the area of democracy.”
  • Azerbaijan: “Regrets that an unclear vision and hesitation persist on the issue of Association Agreements/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements, accompanied by serious deficiencies in the fields of democracy and human rights.”
  • Belarus: “Deplores the stagnant, unacceptable situation with regard to human rights, democracy and political prisoners, and the lack of progress in respecting the values and standards promoted by the Union; insists that the Union’s critical engagement and strict conditionality are needed, accompanied by a more generous, open attitude towards civil society.”
  • Georgia: “Recognises the remarkable progress achieved in the modernisation of the country and in meeting the requirements of the Association Agreement; notes with alarm that an exemplary peaceful transfer of power after democratic parliamentary elections was followed by serious backsliding in the application of democratic standards, and also by the application of selective justice towards leading political opponents.”
  • Moldova: “Praises the progress achieved thanks to the political determination to fulfil the requirements of the Association Agreement.”
  • Ukraine: “Regrets that progress in fulfilling the requirements of the Association Agreement, as laid down in the Council's conclusions of 10 December 2012 and the European Parliament's resolution of 13 December 2012, has been put on hold, with Ukraine persisting in applying selective justice, and failing to reform its electoral system and its judiciary.”

MEPs recognise “Russia’s influence and its competing offer of integration towards the Eurasian Union”. In spite of their critical tone, they appear to favour the signing of Association Agreements with Ukraine, and the initialling of such with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, “before the end of the current term of the European Parliament and the European Commission”, provided that the necessary conditions and requirements are met.

The ENP was developed in 2004 with the aim of forging closer ties with neighbouring countries to the South and East, based on common values of democracy, rule of law and human rights.

The group contains members bordering the EU, including Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Tunisia, Ukraine.

The EU provides ENP countries with financial grants to secure the implementation of reforms, amounting to €12 billion between 2007 and 2013.

Of this, €670 million are channelled through two umbrella programmes: €540 million for SPRING in the Southern Mediterranean and €130 million for EaPIC in the Eastern Neighbourhood.

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