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EU Neighbourhood Policy

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The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was launched in 2003. It provides a framework for the EU to work with its closest neighbours offering support and financial assistance in exchange for them making reforms in line with European values. The hope is that these reforms will lead to closer political and economic cooperation between the neighbouring states and the EU. So far the policy has led to partnerships with Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine (also known as the Occupied Palestinian Territory), Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine.

How does the ENP work?

Before a country can begin negotiations under the ENP it must have completed an association or a partnership and cooperation agreement outlining their relationship with the EU. Countries that are engaged in trying to become an EU member, such as Turkey, are not included.

The next stage of the ENP process is the creation of a country report detailing how the EU can improve its relationship with the partner country. Action plans are then drawn up to provide a detailed map for reform and cooperation. The plans aim to improve political dialogue between the EU and the partner country in areas including trade, market reform and justice and home affairs. They also aim to include countries in EU initiatives in areas such as transport and energy regulation. The plans set out priorities for 3-5 years. After this time new documents are negotiated and adopted. Both the EU and the partner countries must approve the action plans before they can be implemented.

The ENP involves the EU providing financial assistance to partner countries as a means of support and as an incentive for reform. These funds are distributed through the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, which has budget of €15.4 billion for 2014 to 2020. The instrument provides external aid tailored to each country’s action plan.  There are additional funds for the promotion of democracy and human rights.

Russia is not covered by the ENP but it had a strategic partnership with the EU, having signed an association agreement in 1994, which had led to greater cooperation between the EU and Russia. Following Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict much of this has come to a halt.


The European Neighbourhood Policy aimed to build on existing agreements between the EU and many neighbouring states by creating action plans for further co-operation. It was introduced at the same time as the EU was preparing to accept 10 new member states in eastern Europe, which would mean new neighbouring countries for the EU. In 2004, negotiations began on creating action plans for Israel, Jordan, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. All the individual plans were subsequently agreed and implemented by 2006. Egypt and Lebanon agreed further action plans in 2007.

Negotiations on action plans have not been fully activated with the EU’s other neighbours, Belarus, Libya and Syria, because association agreements, the first step to an ENP partnership, have not yet been agreed. Whilst Algeria signed an association agreement with the EU in 2002, it has not yet negotiated an action plan.

The EU held its first conference with 16 of its neighbouring territories in September 2007.