What’s going on in the EU hood? Aid linked to democratic reform

Today the communication on the revision of the European Union’s Neighbourhood Policy (ENP Review) was unveiled by the European Commission and High Representative… finally. We at TI-EU welcome the proposal which places a stronger focus on democratisation and the fight against corruption in the context of a changing neighbourhood.

The European Neighbourhood Policy provides the framework for the EU’s relations with Eastern Europe and countries of the southern Mediterranean. In the past, the ENP has been criticised for underusing its political conditionality and failing to make enhanced relations explicitly conditional in areas such as democratic reform and human rights. The Arab Spring in the EU’s Southern Neighbourhood has given important momentum to the overhaul of the ENP. Under the mottos ‘more for more’ and ‘less for less’ the ENP is set to attach tougher conditions to EU assistance to non-democratic states in its neighbourhood.

Some important new aspects of the ENP are:

  • Greater support for building deep democracy
  • Providing support through an ENP civil society facility
  • Establishment of a European Endowment for Democracy
  • Clearer priorities through stronger political steering – through ENP Action Plans, and  with more precise benchmarks.

TI has been pushing for many of these developments; such as greater political conditionality linked to concrete democratic reforms and the creation of a civil society facility in the ENP (see the joint memorandum submitted to Commissioner Fule in 2010 here).

I am also so encouraged by the activities of TI Chapters in the European neighbourhood, who work tirelessly and in difficult circumstances to promote the fight against corruption and transparency. TI National Chapters in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been involved in the monitoring of anti-corruption reforms and commitments made under their countries’ ENP Action Plans. Earlier this month they published their reports which found that little progress had been made in adopting or implementing anti-corruption measures.

At the TI report launch in Brussels, Varuzhan Hoktanyan, Executive Director of TI Armenia summed up a key issue the ENP faces: “More for more is the policy – but how do you measure it?” The criteria for the benchmarks and conditionality will be critical for the success of the policy. If the yard stick is limited to legislative improvements, this will be no guarantee for progress.

An extra €1.2 billion will be made available for the ENP between 2011 and 2013, bringing the support to almost €7billion over the next 2 years. Still there is concern that the policy will not be backed with enough funds and political will of member states. MEP Franziska Brantner, the foreign affairs spokesperson for the Greens, said, “The proposed ‘carrots’ of increased mobility for citizens from Europe’s neighbourhood, better market access and more funds will remain empty promises if member states fail to buy-in. In the context of budget cutbacks and the current debates on border controls it is clear that this will not be easy.”

Following endorsement by the European Parliament and Council the ENP will have to live up to its ambitious goals – we hope it will have been worth the wait.

Nienke Palstra, Transparency International Liaison Office to the EU

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