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European Union External Action

European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

Through its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU works with its southern and eastern neighbours to achieve the closest possible political association and the greatest possible degree of economic integration. This goal builds on common interests and on values — democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and social cohesion. The ENP is a key part of the European Union's foreign policy.

Partner countries agree with the EU an ENP action plan or an Association Agenda demonstrating their commitment to democracy, human rights, rule of law, good governance, market economy principles and sustainable development. The EU supports the achievement of these objectives.

  • financial support – grants worth €12 bn were given to ENP-related projects from 2007 to 2013
  • economic integration and access to EU markets – in 2011 trade between the EU and its ENP partners totalled €230bn
  • easier travel to the EU – 3.2 m Schengen visas were issued to citizens, and in particular to students from ENP countries in 2012
  • technical and policy support

The EU also supports the civil society which plays an important role in bringing about deep and sustainable democracy in partner countries.

Joint initiative

The ENP is a jointly owned initiative and its implementation requires action on both sides, by the neighbours and by the EU. The ENP benefits from greater coherence thanks to the creation of the European External Action Service which supports the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini and the involvement of the Commissioner specifically dealing with European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations European Neighbourhood Policy, Johannes Hahn.

ENP countries

Of the 16 ENP countries:

12 are currently are already fully participating as partners in the ENP, having agreed on ENP action plans:

Action plans

The ENP action plans (or Association Agendas for Eastern partner countries)

  • set out the partner country's agenda for political and economic reforms, with short and medium-term priorities of 3 to 5 years
  • reflect the country's needs and capacities, as well as its and the EU’s interests.

Implementation & monitoring

The action plans build on existing legal agreements with the EU – partnership & cooperation agreements (PCAs) or association agreements (AAs). Implementation is monitored through committees set up by these agreements. Once a year, the European External Action Service and the European Commission publish ENP progress reports assessing the progress made towards the objectives of the Action Plans and the Association Agendas.

The European External Action Service and the European Commission publish yearly ENP progress reports. The next reports are planned to be published on 25 March 2015.

At the last review of its European Neighbourhood Policy in 2010-11, the EU introduced the more-for-more principle: the EU will develop stronger partnerships and offer greater incentives to countries that make more progress towards democratic reform – free and fair elections, freedom of expression, of assembly and of association, judicial independence, fight against corruption and democratic control over the armed forces.

Multilateral partnerships

The ENP is chiefly a bilateral policy between the EU and each partner country. But it is complemented by regional and multilateral cooperation initiatives:

Central to the ENP are the bilateral Action Plans or Association Agendas between the EU and each ENP partner (12 of them were agreed). These set out an agenda of political and economic reforms with short and medium-term priorities of 3 to 5 years. ENP Action Plans/Association Agendas reflect each partner's needs and capacities, as well as their and the EU’s interests. The ENP is not yet ‘activated’ for Algeria, Belarus, Libya and Syria. An Action Plan with Algeria is currently under negotiation.

Under the ENP, the EU works together with its partners to develop democratic, socially equitable and inclusive societies, and offers its neighbours economic integration, improved circulation of people across borders, financial assistance and technical cooperation toward approximation with EU standards.

Cooperation in specific sectors

Better cooperation in specific sectors means improving daily living conditions of citizens in a tangible way:

  • Through sector cooperation, the ENP promotes the respect for the basic principles of dignity and equality, human rights, and social and economic justice.  These principles are embodied in democratic legal systems and the rule of law, and guaranteed by independent courts.  Efficient and accessible courts protect citizens from arbitrariness, ensure respect for their fundamental rights and guarantee effective justice for all.  Cooperation in reforming the judicial sector and in the fight against corruption forms one of the main priority areas of the ENP in partner countries.
  • The ENP links partner countries with the EU's internal market and its social and economic model. For partners, this means adopting basic rules on equal opportunities, economic participation and fair competition. It means ensuring well-governed institutions and access to social services for all citizens. It implies the promotion of environmental and consumer protection standards, food safety, healthy and safe working conditions. On this basis, the ENP creates the right conditions for economic growth and job creation.
  • The ENP connects the EU with its neighbours, promoting trade, the building of networks in energy and transport, or fostering tourism. It builds bridges between people, facilitates mobility and fosters inter-cultural understanding.  It pays particular attention to educational and youth exchanges, with the aim of fostering human capital development and well-educated, strong and responsible societies.
    Sector policy dialogue and cooperation are a basic element of the ENP and a concrete translation of the EU's foreign policy in the neighbourhood.  By bringing the neighbours closer to its policies and standards, the EU promotes its core values of just, well-governed societies, promoting social development and economic opportunities to all their citizens.

Support and agreements

The European Commission provides financial support in grant form to partners; the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development complement this support through loans. The civil society plays an important role in contributing to democracy and good governance building in partner countries. The EU supports organisations via the Civil Society Facility.

The ENP builds upon the legal agreements in place between the EU and the partner in question: Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) or Association Agreements (AA). Implementation of the ENP is jointly promoted and monitored through the Committees and sub-Committees established in the frame of these agreements. The European External Action Service and the European Commission publish each year the ENP Progress Reports. The assessments and recommendations contained in the Progress Reports form the basis for EU policy towards each ENP partner under the "more for more" principle.

The 'more for more' principle applies to all incentives proposed by the EU: policy developments as well as to financial assistance (excluded humanitarian assistance, refugee & external borders funds and support to civil society). Partners determinedly embarking on political reforms should be offered, in addition to the incentives available to other partners, those that relate to the most ambitious elements of:

  • Market access: economic integration and development (DCFTAs),
  • Mobility of people (mobility partnerships,
  • A greater share of the EU financial support

In that context, the Commission has decided to set up specific programmes both for the Eastern (EAPIC) and Southern (SPRING) neighbours that will allocate extra financial support only to those neighbours taking clear and concrete steps on political reforms. In addition, a new Civil Society Facility was created in September 2011 to strengthen the capacity of civil society to promote and monitor reforms, and increase public accountability.

The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) 2014-2020

For the period 2014-2020, the ENPI will be succeeded by a new European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI).

Read more: Financing the ENP

  • Energy cooperation helps to increase energy security in the EU-ENP area. The aim is secure and stable energy at affordable prices.
  • The EU is increasingly interconnected with the energy systems of its neighbours, and remains dependent on energy supplies from outside the EU. The security and stability of the EU's energy supply is therefore dependent on the security and safety of our neighbours' energy infrastructure and supply. Several neighbouring countries (and their neighbours) directly supply energy to the EU or are transit countries for EU energy supplies.
  • Energy cooperation fosters trade and creates business opportunities, thereby contributing to economic growth and job creation.
  • The EU makes considerable efforts to increase its energy efficiency. Our neighbours have started to make the same effort, but some neighbours are among the least energy efficient economies in the world.
  • With the objective of promoting the use of more sustainable energy the EU works with neighbours on nuclear power plant safety and security (for example the EU is asking Armenia to close its nuclear power plant as soon as possible) and clean energy (including renewable energy sources such as solar and wind). In the same spirit the EU also works with neighbouring countries to combat climate change, preserve the environment, contribute to a healthier life for citizens, make industries more efficient and competitive, create jobs and boost socio-economic growth.
  • Public health cooperation helps extend lives in the EU and its neighbouring countries, contributes to socio-economic development and reduces poverty.
  • Cooperation particularly reinforces the impact of combating cross-border public health threats, especially contagious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, pandemic influenza and tuberculosis.
  • Joint work on other sectors such as the environment, food safety, research and technological development, and road safety also contributes to better health.

In most economies small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the engine of economic growth and job creation.

  • EU cooperation with neighbouring countries improves the operating environment of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by reducing red tape.
  • By approximating their economic regulations with those of the EU, neighbouring countries lay the basis for a fair treatment of all enterprises in areas such as customs, taxation and licencing.
  • EU cooperation and support improves the availability of credit for SMEs and allow them to invest in modernising and expanding their activities.
  • Helping SMEs become successful contributes to fairer and more inclusive economic growth.
  • Cooperation on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards and a move by neighbouring countries to EU standards will significantly expand the range of agricultural products they can export to the EU and to other parts of the world. High EU standards are a benchmark for many countries. Common standards will also help the EU export more to neighbouring countries. Increasing trade will generate growth and jobs in EU and neighbouring countries.
  • High food safety standards and stringent controls in the food production chain "from farm to fork" help to reduce the risk of spreading animal or plant diseases, and of food-borne illnesses. Stringent sanitary and phytosanitary standards, including animal welfare standards, help improve agricultural production and quality – leading to better and healthier lives for citizens in the EU and neighbouring countries and improves animal welfare.
  • Effective management of public finances ensures that scarce public resources are used efficiently. This enhances people's trust in governments.
  • Cooperation helps to improve the planning of public spending to better reflect policy decisions.
  • Cooperation supports the reinforcement of internal and external controls of all public expenditure, which helps to ensure accountability.
  • Cooperation on effective public procurement helps to encourage inclusive economic development and to fight corruption. Public procurement, government purchases, makes up a large share of public spending and over one-sixth of the Gross Domestic Product of most neighbouring countries in the below programme.
  • Fair and simple access to public procurement gives small and medium-sized enterprises better opportunities to develop their business and thereby fosters economic growth.
  • The existence of effective rules to ensure that companies compete fairly and effectively contributes to economic development and encourages innovation. As a result, consumers have more choice in the goods and services available to them and better value-for-money.
  • Anti-trust policy improves economic opportunities for all and fosters inclusive development.
  • Limiting state aid in a fair manner to areas where it is really necessary provides space for fair competition by better and cheaper producers and allows a more efficient use of scarce public resources.
  • EU cooperation with its European Neighbourhood Policy partners reduces corruption at the borders.
  • Cooperation makes trade cheaper and faster by simplifying customs controls and procedures.
  • Customs cooperation contributes to safer trade by strengthening controls to stop counterfeit and pirated goods.
  • European Neighbourhood Policy promotes good governance and the modernisation of tax systems in order to combat cross-border tax fraud and tax evasion without hindering trade, investment and fair competition.
  • For example, tax cooperation aiming to decrease the high excise duty differences on tobacco products (cigarettes etc.) between the EU and its partners, helps to reduce crimes such as smuggling across common borders, increases budget revenues and contributes to a higher level of health protection.
  • More trade means more economic growth, which can help us overcome the economic crisis. All things being equal, countries with open economies tend to grow faster than those that trade less. 
  • Trade means more jobs and less poverty, both in the EU and our neighbourhood. 
  • Increased trade offers a greater variety of goods, at lower prices, to consumers.
  • Trade agreements between the EU and our partners make it easier to do business.
  • Trade develops and secures economic ties between nations and contributes to political stability.
  • Cooperation through the European Neighbourhood Policy supports the modernisation of the agricultural sector and the development of rural areas. This improves the livelihoods of people in rural areas, creates jobs for farmers and increases their income. 
  • Through cooperation, consumers in neighbouring countries benefit from the increased quality and safety of locally grown produce. 
  • The European Neighbourhood Policy promotes organic farming and the prudent use of genetic engineering, which protects consumers’ health and ensures they know exactly what they are buying. Additionally, the policy tackles climate change by supporting reforestation, combating desertification and promoting biodiversity.
  • High-quality, renowned products are the target of counterfeiting, in particular the copying and passing off of well-known geographical indications, such as 'Chablis', 'Queso Manchego' or 'Prosciutto di Parma'. In an increasingly globalised marketplace, the protection of geographical indications, gives international protection for unique and valuable local products for the benefit of consumers and producers.

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  • The European Neighbourhood Policy aims at a high level of consumer protection and consumer product safety across partner countries. If products do not comply with the rules they should, in principle, be withdrawn from the market. Examples are products containing dangerous chemicals, causing electric shocks or which can be accidentally swallowed by children. 
  • Cooperation helps to better protect the legitimate economic interests of consumers. Consumer rights need to be clear and easily understood; redress should be quick and efficiently enforced.
  • The European Neighbourhood Policy promotes reforms in the area of statistics in order to make partner's statistical data and systems reliable and independent. Trustworthy and timely statistics are vital for any democracy. It is crucial for governments and policymakers to develop successful policies and for citizens to hold their government accountable by monitoring progress towards declared goals.
  • Among other data, our neighbours will have more accurate information on the numbers of people, where they live and what their needs are. This will allow governments to identify certain issues better (e.g. the level of unemployment, the composition of households), and to address them better (e.g. where to build schools and hospitals). Such informed decisions lead to a wiser spending of taxpayer's money.
  • By pooling resources and strengthening cooperation and coordination, the EU and participating countries can better prevent, and respond to natural and man-made disasters such as forest fires, floods, chemical accidents and earthquakes. 
  • Strengthened cooperation and better preparedness will help save lives and limit the potential risks and damage disasters pose to citizens, infrastructure and the environment. It will also help governments use available resources more efficiently.
  • By exchanging expertise and best practice, EU and countries participating in the European Neighbourhood Policy can better adapt to the consequences of climate change and become more resilient to impacts such as water scarcity, droughts, rises in sea levels, floods and storms.
  • The ENP promotes investment in developing low carbon economies, including through promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, which contributes to mitigating climate change and helps partner countries reach emission reduction commitments.
  • Better air and water quality and improved waste management brings important health benefits and a better quality of life for citizens in partner countries to the European Neighbourhood Policy and to EU citizens.
  • Strengthened environment protection improves community viability by better preserving natural resources and improving conditions for agriculture, fisheries, forestry and tourism. 
  • More sustainable resource use, increased resource efficiency and the use of more environmentally friendly technologies benefits business in European Neighbourhood Policy countries, contributing to job creation and the transition to a greener economy
  • Pollution does not respect borders – national action is not enough. The EU and partner countries need to work together to limit air pollution and to ensure the protection of shared seas and river basins
  • The EU has acquired a wide-ranging expertise and know-how on how to protect the environment and promote the sustainable use of natural resources, which it is ready to share with partner countries.
  • The EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy improves the level of protection and enforcement of intellectual property in partner countries, which is crucial for competing in the global economy and stimulating investments. Intellectual property rights (IPRs) (such as patents, trademarks, designs, copyrights or geographical indications) enable inventors, creators and businesses to prevent unauthorised exploitation of their creations, and in return to get a return on their investment. Enforcement of these rights within the EU and outside benefits the EU’s economic growth and helps create jobs.
  • Increased IPR protection provides guarantees regarding the quality and safety of products to consumers in the EU and its neighbourhood. Many counterfeit products place children's and citizens' safety or health at risk, for instance where vehicle spare parts or drugs are concerned. Enforcing IPR guarantees that the products are genuine.
  • The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) is the first pan-European satellite navigation system. Thanks to cooperation with neighbouring countries and the placing there of EGNOS stations the whole territory of Europe is well covered. Neighbouring countries hosting the stations can also make use of EGNOS.
  • EGNOS augments the US GPS satellite navigation system and makes it suitable for use in such fields as transport (precision data needed for planes landing in bad weather conditions), responses to disasters and agriculture (aerial crop spraying).
  • European Neighbourhood Policy partner countries are among those with the world’s youngest populations. Investing in education increases not only individuals' chances to find a good job, but also their opportunities in life. Better education means a more informed democracy and helps increase social and economic development.
  • Working with the EU’s eastern neighbours on improving higher education helps universities having their diplomas recognised by other countries, helping to improve job opportunities for graduates. 
  • Youth exchanges between the EU and partner countries, the training of young people and youth workers, partnerships and networks of youth organisations foster mobility, inclusion and non-formal learning, as well as mutual understanding.
  • Inter-cultural dialogue fosters mutual understanding, the work and exchange of cultural operators, the protection of monuments and cultural heritage and enhances (cultural) tourism.
  • Cooperation on employment and social affairs helps to create more jobs in European Neighbourhood Policy partner countries and to reduce existing high unemployment, notably among women and young people.
  • Working on social issues does not merely involve job creation. It means "decent" work: appropriate working conditions, health and safety at work, and protection for workers through pension schemes, insurance against work accidents and maternity leave. 
  • Social cooperation also means protecting workers' rights and ensuring equal opportunities for all in the labour market. The participation of civil society and trade unions in social dialogue with governments and employers is crucial for the development of democratic and prosperous societies.
  • Information society policy cooperation aims at creating a fair, competitive and transparent market for communications and open use of internet for all. This underpins democracy and freedom of expression and contributes to cheaper communications for consumers. 
  • Cooperation through the European Neighbourhood Policy leads to greater interoperability between the EU and partner countries and helps to boost trust in the internet and to fight cybercrime.

People’s mobility is a basic condition for fostering trade and investment, cultural exchanges and social and economic development in modern society. The EU has signed a number of agreements with neighbours, making mobility and access to Schengen visas easier, quicker and cheaper. With some partners negotiations on visas are being held to achieve visa free travel agreements, on the condition that mobility can take place in a secure and well-managed environment. 

  • Corruption, organised crime, drug smuggling and trafficking in human beings are cross-border issues which threaten both EU and partner countries’ citizens alike. Increasing cooperation serves to combat these threats more efficiently and to foster a secure environment for all citizens. Cooperation is ongoing among police forces and the judiciary including through the exchange of information in the context of EU agencies like Europol. There is also cooperation on better management of common borders. 
  • Cooperation on reforming justice systems helps to guarantee effective justice for citizens. The protection of fundamental rights can only be effective if citizens have access to an independent and efficient justice system. And businesses will only invest and create jobs in a business-friendly environment, where commercial disputes can rapidly be solved by the courts.
  • Cooperation in research is a tool helping the EU and European Neighbourhood Policy partner countries to tackle common societal challenges such as energy security, health issues, a deteriorating environment and climate change. 
  • Thanks to cooperation on research and resulting efficiencies, we can strengthen the economic and industrial competitiveness of neighbourhood partners.