The European Neighbourhood Policy: The Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean:


In 2011 the AEBR is making a strong effort to highlight and develop its involvement at the external borders of the EU and far beyond. Keeping an eye in hectic Brussels (debates on future Cohesion Policy, the role of Territorial Cooperation, the EU Budget, etc.) is challenging enough for our Association, but many things happen at the External Borders that we should not get around. The EU Members at the external borders and the Eastern neighbouring countries are developing their territorial approaches. The Russian Federation and its cross-borders structures are committed in the Annual events of the AEBR in 2011, and a strong input to cross-border cooperation at the Russian borders is expected in the next years. In Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia very good news come regarding the constitution of cross-border structures and the launch of new strategies. The Black Sea or the Carpathian mountains are becoming dynamic centres for cooperation and this should be the case of the Mediterranean region…

 Notwithstanding European initiatives (Barcelona Process, Union for the Mediterranean, ARLEM), citizens in the Arab countries have taken their own way to cope with long-lasting non-democratic regimes. In the moment of writing this Newsflash the situation in the Southern Mediterranean is far from being clear.

Mediterranean Cooperation:

 The Commission has offered a package of incentives to the Southern Mediterranean countries in the extraordinary EU Summit on 11th March 2011: loosening visa restrictions, greater support for civil society and closer economic cooperation, to encourage democratic reforms in the region, after the Communication on a “Partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean".

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The Parliament as also called for a long-term strategy towards stable democracy in the Southern Mediterranean countries and Libya in particular (President Buzek’s opening address to the Council on 11th March in Brussels.

110322 Mediterranean EU Member states have asked for a strengthening of the Southern dimension of the ENP by increasing financial engagement even at the cost of its support to the East, while EU Central European members advocate for a more balanced approach with stricter conditionality for all EU neighbours. An increase of funding under the new MFF 2014-2020 requires consensus among all Member states and no major reorientation of the current distribution is expected. In Cannes (June 1995) it was agreed to direct 2/3 of funds to the Mediterranean countries and 1/3 to Eastern European neighbours. Some researchers argue that this rule was respected until 2009, when the Commission allocated 300 M€ to the Eastern Partnership. Since then, Southern experts feel a gradual shift in favour of the Eastern region; while Northern researchers find an overall balance of financing between the East and the South.

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The Union for the Mediterranean (UFM) has never got off after this re-launch of the Barcelona Process in 2007 by the French President Sarkozy, with big words but no budget, and shortly before the crisis. Furthermore, the Commission was taken by surprise by the revolutions with a massive mobilisation of young people. Tunisians and Egyptians have deposed their dictators, triggering a domino effect that is still far to end. The EU policies seem to be very weak, as they have not taken any initiative, and very often following on the heels of the US President Barack Obama. The EU has showed that its action followed some empty paradigms, based mainly upon dealing with the regimes and not with civil societies, as the Barcelona process claimed:

- the concept of stability confused with the status quo, leading the EU to deal with authoritarian regimes;

- the misconception of realpolitik confused with the defence of interests alone;

- the sequence of economic development-political development

The ENP needs to be remodelled and renewed, taking into account not only the “Southern Mediterranean” countries, but the entire Arab world, and through co-development, strategic partnership, respect and equality. Moving from a paternalistic relationship to partnership, as stated by Bichara Khader, professor of the Catholic University of Louvain, who also says that competences are still vague, the roadmap is not precise and coordination between Barcelona and Brussels is limited. Another reason for the failure of the UfM is its size, its area and priority projects. The old formula of 5+5+1 (EU Mediterranean countries + Maghreb countries + Egypt) would have had better results, and would have kept from being contaminated by the Arab-israeli conflict. Another option would have been 27+5+1, but the European Council decided otherwise, inviting the Mashrek countries to form part of the UfM, resulting in its paralysis. Now, the UfM should focus on job-creating projects, in the question of mobility, in order to move the whole region into an area of shared prosperity. Once again, this neighbourhood policy is too obsessed with security (EP 110322:


110325 European Council / Mediterranean policy

The EU Member states decided to ask the shareholders in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to extend its activities to the Mediterranean countries. The EBRD was set up in 1991 to support the democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe, extended its activities to Turkey in 2008, and it is owned by 61 states (including the US, Canada and Japan), the EU and the EIB. On the other hand, the EIB (European Investment Bank) has been recommended by the Commission to increase €1 billion for its lending to the Mediterranean countries (EP proposal) without reducing operation in the Eastern neighbourhood of the EU.

Eastern Dimension

The Parliament as asked for a differentiated, performance-based approach to the Union’s neighbours, with a clear benchmarking system, increased support to civil society and the visa liberalisation process.


Schengen area

We still have clear borders within the EU. The Schengen area is still a hindering factor for the development of some border regions and the Commission has proposed last 10th March to simplify entry and exit formalities at internal and external EU border crossings by amending  the Schengen Borders Code (Regulation 562/2006). 

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