Author Archives: jonatanthompson

“How we learned to love the EU”: three scenarios for the ongoing revision of the European Neighborhood Policy

By Dario Sabbioni, EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies, 2014-15 Falcone and Borsellino promotion, College of Europe

The jargon related to the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is likely to be expanded this year. The second review (the first “official” one) of this policy is going to be put forward later in 2015 by Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations and Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative. Both seem to be already well acquainted with their new job, after only a few months in office. Continue reading

Already 100 days for EU foreign policy under the leadership of Federica Mogherini. What has changed so far?

Infographic source: EEAS,

By Damien Helly

The style of EU Foreign and security policy has already changed: Europe’s face is younger, more energetic, and often appears firmer than it did a year ago. The stronger synergies between development and other external policies are expectedly less visible with a European agenda highly dominated by security crises. Yet the attitude is new: more self-assured and visible than Cathy Ashton, who reportedly hardly ever made public statements without preparation or a spokesperson by her side. Mogherini’s almost relaxed attitude – sometimes using her personal political charisma if not charm – and as her rather tough statements on the need for reforms in Ukraine during her press conference in Kyiv, contrast with her predecessor’s more discreet and measured tone. Mogherini does not hesitate to add a personal touch to her public statements – including on social media -which also seem to become more frequent and more assertive: Europe has found a voice. Continue reading

The launching of the second phase of the European Neighbourhood Policy (2014-2020) in a challenging regional context

The post below is a summary of a high level round-table organised by the Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies, College of Europe, Bruges on 10 October 2014.

Professor Erwan Lannon, professor in the Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies, opened the round-table with an overview of the main innovations of the new phase of the European Neighbourhood Policy and its regional context. He underlined that in the second phase of the ENP, elements such as conditionality, increased differentiation, mutual accountability and the promotion of political cooperation have been strengthened. Professor Lannon mentioned as well that the new priorities are currently being set out for the new European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) under the leadership of the new European Commission. He stressed that the growing instability in the EU’s neighbourhood showed that the revision of 2011 was not sufficient and required further changes. He also welcomed the regained focus on universal rather than EU values in the new financial instrument, and concluded that the recent events in the EU’s neighbourhood, in which international borders have been unilaterally modified, prove that the stakes for the EU are considerable.


The first speaker to take the floor was Professor Fouad Ammor, Professor of International Relations and researcher at the University of Rabat. He started his presentation by drawing a general picture of the Maghreb, first at a regional level, and then at a country-specific level. He underlined that despite the multiple elements that unite the region – a common history, language, culture, and economic ties – the Maghreb region remains to this day one of the least integrated regions in the world, and this mainly due to political conflicts that date back to the Cold War. Professor Ammor then turned to consider the first phase of the ENP and its impact in the region. While the ENP could to some extent be considered the successor of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EMP), launched with the Barcelona Declaration in 1995,he argued that the ENP in fact constituted a “rupture” with past policy, the objectives of which were much less clear than those of the EMP.


Professor Ammor went on to evaluate the ENP’s economic, political and geopolitical impact. He pointed out that, notwithstanding the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument’s contribution to the region in absolute terms, the breakdown of the figures per inhabitant and per country reveals a great disparity between the South and the East, with the latter being clearly favoured over the former. Moreover, the conclusion of Free Trade Areas between the Mediterranean Partner Countries and the EU has widened their trade deficits with the EU. From a political point of view, Professor Ammor welcomed the 2011 European Commission Communications on democratisation in the region, but regretted the insufficient follow-up, as well as the EU’s timid position on the regional conflicts and tendency to align with US positions. Finally, from a geopolitical perspective, he stressed once more that the EU should look beyond its immediate neighbourhood and consider the wider regional landscape.

Professor Ammor concluded his presentation by outlining what the Partner Countries expect of the EU: A stronger Europe speaking with a single voice, advancing coherent positions and pursuing clear strategies. He also underlined the need for a more inclusive Europe, and the rejection of the xenophobic movements fermenting in several member states. Finally, he also pledged for a more autonomous Europe vis-à-vis the United States, for a greater engagement of Europe in the regional conflicts and for a Europe that foresees problems and is able to anticipate solutions.

The second speaker was Salam Kawakibi, Deputy Director of the Arab Reform Initiative, who painted a picture of the challenges of the new context in the Middle East. Mr. Kawakibi began his intervention by criticising the oversimplified version that western media convey about the situation in the Middle East and went on to debunk some common myths.


First, he noted that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), far from being a new phenomenon, has existed since 2004 and has been financially independent since 2007. We should, he argued, pay attention to other forces in the region than ISIS to account for the tearing down of the borders established by the Sykes-Picot Agreement in the early 20th century. The second oversimplification he tackled was on the Syrian Revolution. He stressed that when the revolution started in 2011 it was a peaceful movement. Only after four years of conflict, the usage of heavy weaponry, including chemical arms, and continuous prevarication by the international community did the armed opposition in Syria turn radical. The third issue he addressed were the connections between the Syrian government and the jihadists. Mr. Kawakibi drew attention to the fact that from 2003 to 2008, the Syrian secret services trained a number of jihadists to combat the US in Iraq, some of whom were also put into action against Israeli forces in the refugee camps in Lebanon in 2006. However, in 2008, when Syria began to shed its international pariah status with Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Paris, the government put an end to the programme. According to Mr. Kawakibi, this partially explains the decision of the terrorists to join the Syrian opposition which transformed the peaceful protest into a radical insurgency. As a fourth point, Mr. Kawakibi evoked the millions of internally displaced people in Syria and refugees living in camps outside the country, a humanitarian disaster which in his assessment lays the foundations for fermenting further extremism in the near future.

Then Mr. Kawakibi moved on to consider the role of regional actors. He first addressed the position of Turkey, underlining the importance of the Kurdish and Alevi minorities, and the fact that over two million Syrians are now taking refuge on Turkish territory. He also criticised the indecision of the EU, and in particular the behaviour of some of its Member States, such as Greece or Bulgaria, for not respecting their legal obligations towards immigrants and asylum-seekers. On the other hand, Mr. Kawakibi pointed out that the “true friends” of Syria were Russia and Iran. As regards Russia, he argued that Russia benefits from the EU’s disunity and that Moscow is now taking revenge for its decade-long marginalisation in the resolution of international differences.

In conclusion, Mr. Kawakibi expressed his scepticism about the possibility of a positive response from the EU, but expressed his faith in Europe’s civil society, appealing also directly to the students of the College of Europe. He concluded by drawing a parallel between the situation during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and the current situation in Syria. He shared his concern that as was the case then, when the international community rehabilitated Franco as an ally to combat communism, a similar situation could happen in the present by reintegrating al-Assad into the international concert to combat radical extremists.

The third and final speaker was Professor Roman Petrov, Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law at the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” in Kiev, who spoke about the relations between the EU and its Eastern neighbours. He first acknowledged the positive contributions that the ENP, and its Eastern dimension, the Eastern Partnership (EaP), have brought to the region. Professor Petrov highlighted Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia as the best examples of approximation to the EU acquis through the conclusion of a new generation of association agreements, and the impact that these new agreements will have in the legal systems of the respective countries. Another positive element underlined by Professor Petrov are the visa facilitation agreements.


Professor Petrov then moved on to outline some of the ENP and the Eastern Partnership’s main failures. According to him, the main flaw of the EaP was the fact that the EU did not consider what he defined as the “Russian factor” when designing the policy, which in the long run has become the main obstacle to the EU’s engagement in the region. The second main failure has been the EU’s inability to foster the so-called “good neighbourly relations”, set as an over-arching goal of the EaP, due mainly to the incapacity of the EU to provide the necessary security guarantees to the EaP countries. For Professor Petrov, this has turned the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood from a “ring of friends” into a “ring of fire”. In his concluding remarks, professor Petrov suggested how and where the ENP and EaP could be improved. Firstly, he stressed the importance of strengthening the principle of ‘good neighbourly relations’, and urged the Union to step up as a regional security provider. Secondly, he insisted on Russia’s necessary role in the region and the need to avoid isolating Moscow to be able to reach a resolution of the conflicts in the neighbourhood. Finally, he stressed the need for full implementation of the new association agreements, especially the DCFTAs, which he considered to be their core element.

The event was the last of a series of conferences and lectures on the ‘ENP in a Comparative Perspective’ organised by the Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies in 2013-14 with the financial support of the European Commission. The initiative aims at a comparison of different co-operation schemes that the European Union has in place with partner countries in order to put the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) into context and to draw lessons from the experience of other third countries.

Six ‘E’s for promoting human rights abroad

On 9 October 2014, Mr Stavros LAMBRINIDIS, EU Special Representative for Human Rights, gave the first “EU Diplomacy Lecture” in a new annual series of high level lectures organised by the Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies of the College of Europe in Bruges. This is a short summary of his speech. A full report and more photos are available here.

25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the world is still far from universal democratisation and respect for human rights. The end of the Cold War was not “the end of history” as many had expected. The space for civil society appears to be shrinking around the world and the voices questioning the universality of human rights are again growing louder. The promotion of human rights seems even more necessary today.

How can the EU promote human rights abroad? The challenge can be summarized in six ‘E’s.

The first is to empower the state institutions, courts, civil society organisations, media and activists who fight for rights in their own countries. By funding and keeping an eye on local human rights defenders and those who wish to silence them, the EU prevents human rights violators from sweeping their crimes under the carpet.

Second, where the EU cannot bring economic and hard power to bear on offenders, it can practice more subtle means of persuasion to encourage foreign governments to see the human value and interest of defending human rights.

Third, the EU must engage even with governments that are guilty of grave and widespread human rights violations, some of which, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, are often sensitive about their international reputation – while taking care not to provide them with a fig leaf of respectability.

EU Special Representative for Human Rights speaking at the College of Europe 9 October 2014

EU Special Representative for Human Rights speaking at the College of Europe 9 October 2014

Fourth, the EU must enlarge the defence of human rights against their attackers by reaching out to local governments and regional organisations such as the African Union, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Human rights do not pit one human culture or religion against another: they are the universal language of the powerless against the relativism of the powerful.

Fifth, while empowering defenders, engaging with offenders and supporting locally driven change are essential, the EU and the international community must at times be prepared to ”enforce” human rights, including through vocal public statements.

Sixth, the EU must continually strive to embody human rights at home and to ensure consistency across is actions and actors. And when dealing with third countries, whether business, development or security issues be on the agenda, EU and member states must sing from a common songbook, embed human rights clauses in all policies and agreements and stand ready to invoke them against any country, big or small.

Mr Lambrinidis concluded with a more semantic, but thought-provoking point: That our choice of words also matters, and that the EU should extend the language of promoting human rights more widely to its economic and security policies to emphasise their overarching ambition to advance human rights in all of their dimensions.