The EU’s interests and goals of stability, economic growth and the promotion of fundamental values are at the heart of the relations between the Union and its partners beyond its borders. Launched in 2004, in conjunction with the fifth enlargement of the Union, the European Neighbourhood Policy brings together the “new neighbouring countries” under the same umbrella, thus promoting a balanced development of relations with neighbours to the East (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) and to the South (Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia).
Renewed in 2015 to make it more effective and responsive to a changed geopolitical scenario, and to new challenges at the EU’s external borders, the ENP adopts a new approach that, by enhancing flexibility, differentiation and partnership, aims to turn the EU-Partner Countries relations into a “partnership of equals”.
In order to enhance the ENP effectiveness, new regional strategies have been defined over the years, such as the Eastern Partnership in May 2009, and synergies with other regional organisations, such as the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), have been fostered.
The year 2021 saw a significant relaunch of the EU’s relations with the countries of the Southern Neighbourhood, thanks to the publication of the joint Communication by the Commission and the High Representative entitled “A New Agenda for the Mediterranean”: a strategic orientation document accompanied by an ambitious Economic and Investment Plan for the region.
The most relevant topics of the New Agenda include the priority given to the Partners’ economic and employment recovery, thus contributing to a fair and inclusive green transition; the presence of a migration pillar; the need to relaunch the high-level political dialogue with the countries of the Southern shore, also through regular meetings of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Ministers responsible for sectoral subjects and – where necessary – Summits of Heads of State and Government, thus maintaining a high level of attention and political investment on the Mediterranean area.
The Eastern dimension of the ENP is best represented by the Eastern Partnership, a multilateral dialogue format between the EU, its Member States and the Eastern Neighbourhood countries, officially launched at the Prague Summit on May 7, 2009.
While the Fifth Eastern Partnership Summit (Brussels, November 24, 2017) had marked the adoption of the operational document containing the “20 Goals for 2020” – a twenty-point roadmap, identified in the four priority areas of economic development, governance, connectivity and society – the subsequent Partnership Summit (Brussels, December 15, 2021) allowed to review the Eastern Partnership’s achievements over the years and to outline the new post-2020 agenda of priorities, hinged around the three main topics of recovery, resilience and reforms. This is also thanks to an ambitious Economic and Investment Plan for the region, submitted to enhance European support and promote regional synergies and connections.
The Summit of December 2021 was not attended by Belarus, which suspended its participation in the Eastern Partnership in response to the restrictive measures taken by the EU.