01 Nov 2004

European Neighbourhood Policy:Strategy or Placebo?

Michael Emerson

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The EU now faces an existential dilemma in the apparent choice to be made between over-extending the enlargement process to the point of destroying its own governability, versus denying one of its founding values to be open to all European democracies and possibly generating negative effects from the exclusion of countries in its neighbourhood. The newly emerging European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) seeks a way out of the dilemma. This policy seems to pass through a familiar three-stage process for major EU initiatives: first the important idea enters political discourse, second the EU institutions take modest initial actions that are not up to the task and third, the EU accepts the need for credible action at a level commensurate with the challenge. The ENP has passed rapidly from the first to the second stage, with potential to move to the third stage, without it yet being clear whether the institutions will now go on to sufficiently develop their proposals. This issue presents itself as one of the most precise and significant challenges facing the new Commission presided by Mr Barroso. The new member states represent the EU’s newest resource, which could greatly contribute to a successful ENP.