The EU’s annual review of its efforts to encourage reform in neighbouring countries to the east and south shows mixed results for 2013.
Through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU offers financial help to partner countries committed to governmental and economic reform and other positive initiatives, such as combating corruption.
The policy aims to promote prosperity, stability and security in the Mediterranean region and eastern Europe.
Despite significant political and economic reforms, 2013 saw crises in many countries, arising from political instability and national and regional security issues.
A year of challenges
The EU’s annual review of the programme welcomed the adoption of a new constitution in Tunisia and reforms in Morocco. However, the EU has concerns about political polarisation, freedom of assembly and press freedom in Egypt.
Libya, meanwhile, faces worsening security challenges which are hampering national reconciliation and political stabilisation. Lebanon and Jordan are grappling with the impact of the Syrian civil war on their political, economic and social systems. Israelis and Palestinians started peace talks again but still face serious obstacles.
In the eastern ENP partner countries, Ukraine remains in the throes of momentous change triggered by protests in support of association with the EU. Those aspirations were supported earlier this month when the EU approved a €11bn package of financial assistance to the crisis-hit country.
Progress in Moldova and Georgia was counterbalanced by lack of reform in Belarus, while Azerbaijan did little to strengthen fundamental rights and freedoms.
Financial assistance for ENP countries came to €2.65bn in 2013, its highest level in the 7-year funding period. Between 2014 and 2020, EU funding for neighbouring countries will reach €15.4bn. It can be invested in areas such as
ENP countries benefit from greater trade and easier travel to and from the EU and opportunities for study and cultural exchange. The process is underpinned by action plans which have been agreed with 12 of the 16 ENP countries so far.