The ENP was launched in 2004 to foster stability, security and prosperity in the EU's neighbouring regions, both in the South and in the East. In 2015, the High Representative and the European Commission adopted the ENP Review, which brought a change to the cooperation framework and proposed ways to build more effective partnerships in the neighbourhood.
The ENP builds on the commitment of the EU and its neighbours to work together on key priority areas. This partnership is based on shared values, the promotion of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and social cohesion. The reviewed ENP also adds 3 joint priorities for cooperation:
1. Economic development for stabilisation;
3. Migration and mobility.
Differentiation is a guiding principle of the EU relations with its neighbourhood. This approach recognises the different aspirations of the partner countries towards their relations with the EU. Therefore, the EU offers tailor made partnerships to its neighbours. Joint Documents (i.e. Partnership Priorities, Association Agendas or equivalents) are set together with each country, focusing on shared interests. This allows for a sense of ownership and flexibility in tailoring support to each partner country’s ambitions. Greater involvement of EU Member States and shared responsibility are also among the key principles of the ENP.
At the core of the ENP is the ambition to deepen the engagement with the civil society and social partners.
The ENP offers partner countries greater access to the EU's market and regulatory framework, standards and internal agencies and programmes.
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- Political Framework: bilateral and multilateral
- Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law
- Peace, Security and Defence policy
- Migration and Mobility
- Economic Relations, Trade, Investments
- Energy, Environment, Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Green Economy
- Science, Technology, Digitalisation
- Civil society dialogue
- Financial Assistance
- COVID-19 support
- Public Diplomacy
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Political Framework: bilateral and multilateral
The EU supports the ENP objectives through political dialogue and a number of other tools, including financial support and technical cooperation. Association Agendas, Partnership Priorities and equivalents are the basis for setting priorities for assistance by establishing political and economic reform agendas with short- and medium-term priorities. Agreed jointly, they reflect the needs, interests and capacities of the EU and each partner. The Association Agendas and Partnership Priorities build on existing legal agreements with the EU – Association Agreements (AAs) or Partnership & Cooperation Agreements (PCAs).
Country-by-country developments are addressed in country-specific reports, which are released by the European External Action Service and the European Commission ahead of Association Council meetings or other similar high-level events.
ENP regional and multilateral cooperation initiatives include:
- Eastern Partnership
- Renewed Partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood. New Agenda for the Mediterranean
- Union for the Mediterranean
- Black Sea Synergy
- Northern Dimension
- EU Artic Policy
- Cross Border Cooperation (CBC)
Building on the revised ENP, the cooperation with the East and with the South has been further strengthened:
On 18 March 2020, the Joint EEAS and European Commission Communication on the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020 – Reinforcing Resilience – an Eastern Partnership that delivers for all defined the long-term policy objectives for future cooperation, under the overarching goal of strengthening resilience. For more information see here.
On 2 July, 2021, the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy outlined a proposal on how to take forward priorities for cooperation with Eastern partners for years to come, underpinned by an Economic and Investment Plan. The comprehensive agenda aims at increasing trade, growth and jobs, investing in connectivity, strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, supporting the green and digital transitions, and promoting fair, gender-equal and inclusive societies.
On 9 February 2021, the Joint EEAS and European Commission Communication on the Renewed Partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood: A new Agenda for the Mediterranean was adopted. The initiative is backed by an EU “Economic and Investment Plan for our Southern Neighbours” aimed at unleashing the untapped economic potential of the region.
 This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual positions of the Member States on this issue.
Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law
The European Union’s relationship with the ENP region has evolved in a broad and rich cooperation, encompassing political, strategic and security dimensions, including human rights, democracy and the rule of law issues.
The EU supports the ENP partners in their path towards sustainable democratic reforms. Human rights and good governance are addressed in specific dialogues and promoted through the EU assistance programmes, both in the East and in the South.
The EU is scaling up the dialogue and its support for the partners from the Southern neighbourhood, to be more ambitious and respond to the expectations of their citizens for fair, accountable and democratic societies. This is in the spirit of the new Agenda for the Mediterranean, adopted in February 2021, through which the EU proposes a renewed engagement in human development, good governance and the rule of law, among others.
In the Eastern neighbourhood, as stated in the Joint Communication on the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020 and the Joint Staff Working Document - Recovery, resilience and reform: post 2020 Eastern Partnership priorities, the EU aims at improving the resilience of the state institutions in the region and the respect for rule of law. This is done through support for judicial reforms, fighting against corruption, economic and organised crime, and considering progress in the rule of law reforms when deciding on EU assistance.
During the programming period 2021-2027, the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law will continue to be supported.
Peace, Security and Defence policy
The EU has a large and diversified security-related cooperation with the ENP partners. It goes from counter-terrorism and prevention of radical extremism, fight against organised crime to conflict prevention, crisis management and security sector reform.
Progress in the security sector reform is a shared objective with several ENP partners, to which the EU provides advice and financial support to achieve institutional and legislative reforms.
Cooperation in counter-terrorism and countering radical extremism, particularly with the Southern partners is on-going and there is a shared ambition and willingness to deepen its scope.
The EU has been active in supporting the international negotiation frameworks for conflict resolution (e.g. Libya, Syria, Ukraine) and confidence-building measures. Increased attention starts to be paid to recent threats like cyber and hybrid threats, as well as addressing climate change impact on security. For more information, see here.
Migration and Mobility
Migration is a global phenomenon that affects both shores of the Mediterranean. Cooperation with the Southern Mediterranean countries in the field of migration is key in order to address our shared challenges and to seize the relevant opportunities. Existing cooperation frameworks and dialogues set up at bilateral and regional levels, such as Mobility Partnerships, the Valletta Joint Action Plan and the Rabat and Khartoum processes, provide a useful guide to address the challenges of forced displacement and irregular migration and harness the opportunities of legal migration and mobility.
The New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which is the EU’s overall policy framework for dialogue and cooperation on migration with third countries, provides a reinforced basis for a sustainable, joint and long-term migration and asylum management. The New Pact foresees fostering strengthened tailor-made, comprehensive and mutually beneficial partnerships, presenting a renewed opportunity to shape a joint response based on co-ownership, a balanced assessment of respective interests and needs, solidarity and shared responsibility. These partnerships will not only encompass the entire spectrum of our cooperation on migration and asylum, but at the same time will be embedded in the different strands of our cooperation – political, security and economic.
The EU will use all the tools at its disposal, including EU Agencies and the NDICI- Global Europe, to bring operational and financial support in the area of migration and mobility. Cooperation at regional and multilateral level will be further explored, including through triangular and South-South cooperation. Trilateral cooperation with the UN as well as with regional actors, including by building on the successful experience of the AU-EU-UN Task Force in Libya, will be further enhanced.
Addressing migration challenges is a joint priority also within the Eastern Partnership framework. The EU is working with the partner countries to ensure mobility and people-to-people contacts in a secure and well-managed environment, as well as to ensure support to vulnerable migrants and refugees. In this regard, the successful implementation of existing agreements on visa facilitation and readmission, as well as the continuous fulfilment of relevant visa liberalisation benchmarks, are essential. To help people move goods across borders, technical and administrative cooperation in integrated border management is being strengthened.
The possibility to launch new visa liberalisation dialogues with the countries, whose citizens still require visas to travel to the EU will be considered. Labour migration initiatives will also be considered. The aim is to foster legal migration and mobility, enhancing cooperation and cross fertilisation of skills and competencies while taking account of the impact of brain drain on partner countries.
Economic Relations, Trade, Investments
The EU’s economic, investment and trade relations with its neighbours are mutually beneficial for both sides.
One of the objectives of the reviewed ENP is to contribute to stability in the neighbouring countries through economic development. Open markets, sustainable growth, inclusive economic development, and in particular prospects for the young people are key to stabilising societies in the neighbourhood.
Neighbourhood countries continue to indicate a growing need for international financial and economic support to underpin necessary transition and stability, even more so, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of the strategic vulnerabilities exposed by the pandemic, it is crucial for the EU to further develop and secure ties with these countries to enhance their economic and political resilience.
More trade, means more economic growth. In its trade relations, the EU promotes a sustainable growth model as defined by the European Green Deal and the European Digital Strategy, which can help the recovery from the COVID-19 economic crisis.
Countries with open economies tend to grow faster than those that trade less. Stability and prosperity of the EU's neighbouring countries is crucial and the EU supports a stronger economic integration with the Eastern Partnership, in particular DCFTA partners, as well as with the Southern neighbourhood.
Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine have chosen the path of political association and economic integration with the EU through Association Agreements/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (AA/DCFTA). The EU works with these partners to develop their relations further and to maximise the benefits for both parties to those agreements.
Relations between the European Union and Armenia are based on the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
In the Southern neighbourhood, upgrading relations and economic integration is a strategic necessity for long-term stability.
Trade also means more jobs and less poverty and inequalities – both in the EU and our neighbourhood. The EU benefits from geographical proximity, cultural and linguistic ties with the Southern neighbourhood countries that facilitate this strategic economic and commercial integration. Trade and investment are essential to unlock the region’s potential.
Taking advantage of opportunities at the sub-regional, regional and continental levels can also contribute to economic diversification and deepen integration.
The Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 envisages a significant support for investment through the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI)-Global Europe. Under this instrument, the European Fund for Sustainable Development Plus (EFSD+) is established as an integrated financial package supplying financial capacity in the form of grants, technical assistance, financial instruments, budgetary guarantees and blending operations – to support investments and increase access to financing.
This innovative financial architecture will allow crowding in private sector investment, in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and EU Member State development banks, while following the “policy first” principle.
Energy, Environment, Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Green Economy
The European Green Deal reaffirms that environmental and climate challenges require urgent action by the EU and the partner countries.
Advancing the green transition in the partner countries is at the heart of the Eastern Partnership and of the new Agenda for the Mediterranean. The EU will support ENP partner countries to fulfil their nationally determined contributions to the Paris Agreement and modernise their economies, reducing their carbon footprint and moving towards climate neutrality.
The EU will work together with them to increase their environmental and climate resilience, promote circular economy, protect biodiversity and support the sustainability of the food chains in both regions.
ENP also gives strong support to energy cooperation, both as a security measure (energy sovereignty) and as a means to sustainable economic development. This includes:
- Support greater energy independence through support to diversification of energy sources, better cooperation on energy efficiency, and transition to the low carbon economy;
- Framework for cooperation with partners beyond the neighbourhood with the goal of building a resilient Energy Union, with an ambitious climate policy at its core.
In line with the European Green Deal, the EU will scale up its support for climate change mitigation and adaptation measures, including the development of renewable energy sources.
Science, Technology, Digitalisation
At a time when the internet and digital technologies are transforming our world, a Europe fit for the digital age is one of the top European Commission political priorities, aiming to empower people with a new generation of technologies. The EU has stressed that a strong digital presence in the EU’s neighbourhood policy will enable growth and drive sustainable development.
In this respect, the EU has also affirmed its commitment to invest further in the digital transformation of Eastern Partnership countries, in line with EU legislation and best practices, through the long-term policy objectives of the Eastern Partnership beyond 2020 and Joint Staff Working Document – Recovery, resilience and reform: post 2020 Eastern Partnership priorities[JM(1]
The New Agenda for the Mediterranean offers opportunities for new partnerships on strategic priorities of digital transition with the Southern neighbourhood, which together with the green transition could be accelerators of sustainable growth.
Cooperation in research is a tool helping the EU and ENP 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 innovation, we can strengthen the economic and industrial competitiveness of neighbourhood partners.
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Civil society dialogue
The 2015 ENP Review reinforced the key role of civil society in the region. This more focused engagement has been integrated into the process of negotiating ‘Partnership Priorities’ with partner countries in the European neighbourhood. Outreach and inclusion of civil society is a key part of all the priority areas covered by the Eastern Partnership and the new Agenda for the Mediterranean.
Sub-national, national and intra-regional civil society are supported both through direct means and through facilitating other organisations’ involvement. The European Endowment for Democracy plays an important role in this regard. The EU supports developing the capacities of civil society professionals and leadership in the neighbourhood, using programmes such as Civil Society fellowships, recognising the important role of young people in that regard.
The Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (CSF) is a regional civil society platform aimed at promoting integration, facilitating reforms and democratic transformations in the six Eastern Partnership countries. The EaP CSF strives to strengthen civil society in the region, boost pluralism in public discourse and policy making by promoting participatory democracy and fundamental freedoms.
The EU has implemented a number of programmes in the Southern neighbourhood to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) and support them financially and non-financially to promote and defend accountability, the rule of law, media freedom, ending violence against women and sustainability among other human rights. The regional programmes Med Dialogue for Rights and Equality Programme (2019-2022) and Majalat (2018-2022) are aimed at strengthening the role of CSOs active at the regional scale, as well as in influencing policy-making in the Southern neighbourhood and the Euro-Mediterranean Space.
European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI): ENI was the main financial instrument for implementing the ENP during the 2014-2020 programming period. ENI supported the neighbourhood region with a financial envelope of EUR 15.4 billion.
Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) – Global Europe: In the 2021-2027 period, assistance to the partner countries in the neighbourhood will be financed through NDICI – Global Europe. With a total financial envelope of EUR 79 462 billion the new instrument is based on a ‘policy first’ principle. It will streamline EU external action by merging most of the existing external financing instruments and the European Development Fund into one single tool. NDICI-Global Europe preserves the key features of the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) in relation to enhanced political cooperation with the ENP partner countries. In total, the EU’s neighbourhood area is granted a dedicated financial envelope of at least EUR 19 323 million for the period 2021-2027.
The neighbourhood region will have access to the NDICI emerging challenges and priorities ‘cushion’. This will allow the EU to react in a flexible and rapid way to emergency situations, as well as to unexpected security or migratory situations in the region by directing financial assistance where and when most needed.
The “Umbrella” programme supports our partners in their democratic transitions, based on an “incentive-based” approach, which rewards progress in the area of democratic reforms and human rights with financial support.
More than EUR 1 billion has been provided since 2014 to several ENP partner countries.
NDICI will continue to support the programme during the 2021-2027 programming period, based on progress achieved in a wider area of reforms that serve the democratic purpose.
Participation in EU programmes and sectoral cooperation
Under the ENP, the EU works together with its partners to develop democratic, socially equitable and inclusive societies. It offers partners economic integration, improved circulation of people across borders, financial assistance and technical cooperation toward approximation with EU standards.
Cooperation between the EU and its neighbours covers a wide range of sectors – from environment to culture, from agriculture to statistics, customs, competition – and far beyond. The objective is to help improve the quality of life of the citizens in the EU and in our neighbourhood.
ENP countries have the possibility to participate in EU programmes and activities of a large number of EU agencies according to different modalities.
The EU and its Member States are working together to assist partner countries in the neighbourhood, on the health, economic and social fronts. To meet this solidarity objective, many measures and initiatives have been adopted.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU has been committed to a global response and to ensuring safe, fair and equitable access to vaccines. The EU and its Member States, often in a Team Europe approach, have taken a number of initiatives to support global vaccine action including through its substantial contribution to COVAX.
In the Southern neighbourhood, the EU has reconfirmed its solidarity with its partners and has mobilised a support package of over EUR 2.3 billion. Based on requests from partner countries, tailor-made COVID-19 response packages are being prepared and implemented.
In the Eastern neighbourhood, as part of its global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the EU, together with the European Investment Bank, mobilised EUR 2,5 billion to support Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine in tackling the coronavirus health crisis and socio-economic recovery. Tailor-made COVID-19 response packages using a mix of existing funds and new funds are being mobilised in each of the six partner countries.
- COVID-19 Factsheet (March 2021): EU Global response to COVID-19 (here)
- The Communication adopted by the European Commission on 15/06/21 on “Drawing the early lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic” (here)
- The Communication adopted by the European Commission on 19/01/21 “A united front to beat COVID-19” (here)
- The Communication adopted by the European Commission on 17/02/21 "HERA Incubator: Anticipating together the threat of COVID-19 variants" (here)
- The Communication adopted by the European Commission on 10/03/2021 “The EU’s humanitarian action: new challenges, same principles” (here)
Better communicating and promoting EU policies are at the heart of the revised ENP. Improved public diplomacy contributes to better explaining the rationale of EU policies and the positive impact of the EU actions. The EU will keep seeking to ensure greater visibility for the use of EU funds for the neighbourhood.
It is a key objective for the EU to engage more on public diplomacy with governments, civil society, the business community, academia and other citizens in partner countries, in particular youth, including through science and cultural diplomacy.