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European Neighbourhood Policy Scholarship Essays



The merging of internal and external security is taking various forms in Europe today (Bigo, 2001; Lutterbeck, 2005). One of the expressions of this process is the creation of an external dimension of the European Union (EU)’s internal security project, the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ). Aspects of the external dimension of the AFSJ have been included in a number of policy specific documents and in comprehensive foreign policy initiatives, such as the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). One of the objectives the EU pursues by establishing the external dimension of the ASFJ in relations with neighbouring countries is the promotion of the rule of law (RoL) (European Commission, 2003c, 1).


This paper advances the claim that the term RoL promotion has various meanings when employed by different policy makers. In this we concur with the observations formulated in the only publications on RoL in external relations to date (Cremona, 2004; 2005). There are two dominant interpretations in the literature on how to conceptualise the RoL. Whereas the broad conception considers RoL an objective per se to be realised in third countries, the narrow one stipulates that RoL in third countries is a necessary condition for EU cooperation with neighbouring countries. This double-faced nature of the RoL objective raises a number of empirical and theoretical puzzles, such as which priorities and policy instruments prevail in particular issue areas and what these choices tell us about the nature of the EU as a power in international relations. This paper seeks to understand why RoL promotion in the ENP countries figures as an objective on various policy agendas, and why different policy instruments are used to pursue it.


The argument is advanced that to understand these differences we need to be attentive to the variations in the internal policy making process. To illustrate these variations and their influence on output we will scrutinise the EU’s anti-drugs, anti-corruption and judicial reform policies with respect to the ENP countries, Morocco, Tunisia, Moldova and Ukraine. RoL promotion in the ENP is a ‘composite policy’ that includes actors from the ‘sectoral’policy field of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), from the Commission and member states’ interior ministries, and the macro-policy makers from the ‘external relations’ (RELEX), development (DEV) and foreign affairs area (Sedelmeier, 2002; 2007)  [2][2] I will be using the term JHA instead of JLS, which.... It is claimed that the hybrid nature of the policy objective and the ‘unsettled’cross-pillar setting allow for power struggles to take place. In line with the bureaucratic politics approach, it is assumed that the actors with more resources and those who are better situated in the policy making process have a stronger position in policy making.


After an introduction to the empirical puzzle, the text presents the theoretical background of foreign policy analysis from which a number of theoretical expectations have been derived. After specifying the actor constellations and their preferences in the three issue areas the different policy outcomes are presented. The findings from the investigation of the policy making process and the policy outcome will finally be discussed and linked to the broader debate on the EU’s power in the international arena.

Empirical Puzzle


The exact meaning of the RoL is a hotly disputed topic in legal doctrine, which opposes the scholars conceiving of it in a substantial opposed to those considering it in a formal manner (Carothers, 1998; Casper, 2004). The formal conception considers the RoL a formal requirement, which laws must fulfil, whereas the substantial one incorporates ideas of equality and justice. Owing to the different constitutional traditions prevailing in the member states of the EU there is no uniform understanding of its content, despite its status as a fundamental principle according to article 6 Treaty on European Union (TEU). For this reason the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has embarked upon defining the content of the principle (Fernandez Esteban, 1999). The self-understanding of the EU as a community of law explains why the EU considers the principle paramount in its relations with third states.


The vagueness of the EU’s definition of the RoL led to a number of difficulties during enlargement, as it was not clear whether the principle had a proper meaning, or whether it was to be considered under the headings of democracy and human rights (Kochenov, 2004; Mineshima, 2002). It is becoming an objective of foreign policy in it its own right in the external relations sphere, although its content remains far from clear. It is linked on the one hand, to good governance objectives, and on the other hand, to the EU’s internal security agenda (Cremona, 2004; 2005). The ambiguity regarding the content of the principle is exacerbated in the context of the ENP, because this policy initiative is itself caught between an attempt to export liberal principles, and the need to establish a shield against security threats arising in these countries.


Three fields of EU activity - anti-drugs, anti-corruption, and judicial reform - have been chosen to analyse how the EU promotes the RoL. They are linked to the RoL objective either directly in that the policies aim at improving the state of the RoL by tackling the main deficiencies (anti-corruption and judicial reform), or indirectly in that the EU’s initiatives aim to strengthen the law enforcement institutions involved in the upholding of the RoL (the fight against drugs). To understand the policy making in the composite policy setting, I resort to the tools developed by foreign policy analysis, which will be introduced in the following section.

Bureaucratic Politics


The origins of the bureaucratic politics approach can be traced back to C. Lindblom’s essay on ‘muddling through’ where he posits that rational decision-making is not the only way in which decisions are made (Lindblom, 1959). This general finding was brought in to the sphere of foreign policy research in G. Allison’s seminal work on the Cuban Missile Crisis in which he formulates two alternatives to the rational actor model in a unitary state, namely organisational behaviour and governmental politics (Allison, 1971). To date foreign policy analysis remains an eclectic approach bringing together psychologists, political scientists and sociologists that focus on questions such as the importance of the cognitive background of decision-makers, the phenomenon of group think or of organisational logics and cultures. In this paper, I rely on Allison’s second attempt to formulate a more rigid account of governmental politics and an article by E. Rhodes, who offers an empirical testing of the bureaucratic politics approach (Allison and Zelikow, 1999; Rhodes, 1999). Despite the difficulties that this approach has encountered in terms of its recognition as ‘theory’ and the US-focus of most of the literature, it constitutes an interesting framework for presenting reflections on what occurs inside bureaucracies. It has also been applied to the EU by some scholars (Holden, 2003; Piana, 2002; White, 2004).


The main assumption underlying bureaucratic politics is that all policy outcomes reflect the pulling and hauling of the main actors behind the scenes. According to Mile’s Law, policy outcomes can be predicted by focusing on the bureaucratic location of each player, as ‘where you stand depends on where you sit’ (Piana, 2002,224). Hence, as a first step we identify the actors involved. This is a difficult undertaking in the context of the EU owing to its high level of institutional fragmentation (Peters, 1992). As a second step we seek to identify the interests of the various actors. In this context a distinction between purposive and reflexive goals is introduced : purposive goals aim to achieve the substantive policy objectives; in contrast, the pursuit of reflexive goals implies that an organisation pursues power maximising goals (Peters, 1992). The pursuit of reflexive goals is a common feature within the European Commission’s Directorate Generals (DG). The DGs are for the most part intended to increase the Commission’s competence overall, but sometimes they become competitors for influence (Cini, 1996). The competition arises from the fact that their respective domains of competence are not clearly delimited from each other. Reflexive and purposive goals do not characterise the output generated through the policy making process; they describe the behaviour of the actors. The third step requires specifying the resources of the actors in relational terms. In the last step the policy-making procedures need to be scrutinised to identify who has the control over the action channels.


The following predictions in respect of policy making in the composite policy can be made :

  1. As numerous actors are involved in policy making in each one of the issue areas competition for influence among the involved actors may arise;

  2. In terms of power the JHA actors in both the Commission and the Council have gained in importance over time due to their predominance in terms of mobilizeable resources (human capital, access to financial resources) and their experience in transgovernmental networking. However, the relative positions of the two EU institutions, and their relations with the member states vary across the issue areas and across time;

  3. Despite the similarities in the institutional setting the policy making procedures vary in terms of their respective competences. These differences influence the relative positioning of the actors and, ultimately, they influence policy outcomes.

Anti-corruption policy


Anti-corruption policy is an issue which touches upon three different fields of EC/EU activity : firstly, under the first pillar it is connected to the protection of the financial interests of the EC; secondly, it is an issue that needs to be addressed in the penal area by establishing common definitions, incriminations and sanctions; and thirdly, it figures on the good governance agenda in the field of external relations and development policy. In the early days, the EU’s fight against corruption focused on the protection of the financial interests of the European Community (Rychen, 2004). In parallel, in the realm of external relations the Council explicitly mentioned corruption as an issue of interest to the Union (Council of the European Union, 1991).


The competences of the supranational actors are strongest in the area of the protection of the financial instruments of the Community and the fight against fraud : the Commission enjoys the exclusive right of initiative; the Council and the European Parliament co-legislate, and OLAF (Organisation de Lutte Anti-Fraude) investigates cases of alleged fraud within the Community institutions. The EC’s anti-corruption policy extends to control over the spending of Community funds in the external domain. The criminal law aspects of corruption are dealt with in the third pillar.


The Task Force on JHA, initially located in the General Secretariat of the Commission, presented the first Commission Communication on a Union Policy Against Corruption in 1997. The Council never acted upon it (European Commission, 1997). This document outlines all the areas in which the EC had already adopted legislation, such as trade, public procurement, and other internal market policies. It was followed up by a Commission Communication on a Comprehensive EU Policy Against Corruption in 2003 (European Commission, 2003b). The 2003 document, drafted by DG JHA, emphasises pursuing anti-corruption policies through criminal law measures and police and judicial cooperation. US pressure in various international fora and the imminent prospect of eastern enlargement triggered the intensification of the EU’s anti-corruption efforts (Krastev, 2004). Moreover, the international financial institutions, World Bank and IMF, took a tougher stance with respect to inserting good governance conditionality clauses into lending agreements concluded with third states. The link to the ‘global’good governance agenda ensured that ‘macro policy’ makers from DG Development and RELEX were not completely sidelined on the question of anti-corruption.


One of the main difficulties for the development of an external anti-corruption policy is the absence of an internal policy template that can be exported. Internally, we observe piecemeal legal approximation that remains silent on delicate issues, such as for example political corruption, party or social partner financing, civil law aspects and monitoring. The EU compensates for the lack of an internally consolidated Acquis by relying on the efforts undertaken by other international organisations, in particular the Council of Europe, the OECD and the UN. The Council has been very hesitant to strengthen monitoring internally, to join the Council of Europe’s Conventions and to submit itself to evaluation by GRECO (Groupe d’Etats contre la Corruption), although the underlying Conventions are considered part of the Acquis (Council of the European Union, 2005a).


Interestingly, internal hesitancy in fighting corruption does not translate into external silence. On the contrary, corruption conditionality has been the object of intensive policy transfer in the context of enlargement, as the recent debates on the accession of Bulgaria and Romania show (Tivig and Maurer, 2006). The further afield one goes in geographical terms the less pronounced the EU’s efforts at fighting corruption are. In the southern ENP countries, corruption is dealt with under the heading of ‘political dialogue’; whereas it figures under actions in the field of Justice and Home Affairs in the relations with the eastern neighbours. Overall, one could say that fighting corruption becomes relevant in external relations once funds are being disbursed and the security interests of the EU are at stake.


The fight against corruption has been declared a priority area for action under the EU’s Good Governance Agenda and the 2003 Communication on Governance and Development. The latter dedicates a whole section to the need to combat corruption to attain a higher level of development (Bleiber, 2005; European Commission, 2003a). This document, drafted by DG Development, advocates a comprehensive approach to corruption by strengthening institutions, civil society and by supporting the media in fostering an anti-corruption ethos. It contrasts with the 2003 Communication on a Comprehensive Policy Against Corruption, drafted by DG JHA, which contains a section on ‘ten principles for improving the fight against corruption in acceding, candidate and other third countries’ (European Commission, 2003b). The latter focuses more on approximating penal law and institution building.


By and large anti-corruption policy is a field in which the EU is intensifying its activities. One of the explanations for the development of an external policy is the active role played by the policy entrepreneur, the European Commission. The policy papers on the external dimension and RoL reveal the coexistence of various interpretations that prevail within the Commission : JHA actors advocate a preventive and repressive approach based on criminal law, whereas DG DEV defends a holistic approach.

Judicial reform


Judicial reform is more firmly located in the external relations sphere, more specifically on the institution building and good governance agenda. This section shows that there are also tensions between the macro policy makers that result from the different approaches they advocate on the question of political change. As in the case of anti-corruption policy, there is no EU model judicial system : every member state has its own legal and judicial tradition which translates into fundamentally different judicial systems. There are, however, some general principles that all European judicial systems adhere to, for example constitutionally guaranteed independence and impartiality of the judiciary and of the judges, and access to justice. The Council of Europe and the UN Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct have elaborated more exhaustive rules on the judiciary. During enlargement the EU made up for the absence of standards on the judiciary by launching a number of Twinning and TAIEX projects on the judiciary in which the member states sought to export their judicial system to the CEECs (Piana, 2005).


Two units in DG RELEX share responsibilities for disbursing technical assistance to third states : the first unit constitutes the country desks which coordinate the EU’s dealings with third states; the second the programming unit, Europeaid. The latter administers the major external funding programmes, such as TACIS, MEDA and the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). The country desks are responsible for defining the EU’s overall strategy in the form of country strategy papers. These papers are the result of inter-service consultations, during which all Commission services provide input and the partner country is consulted. Europeaid is responsible for the annual planning cycles, organising the call for tenders, the evaluation of project proposals and the disbursement of the funds. As the policy makers at the country desks do not have control over policy implementation, instances of difficulty can arise (Holden, 2003). We should note that differences between the political and the technical approach come to fore more frequently in the relations with the southern neighbours than in the relations with the eastern neighbours.


There are two budget lines for financing activities in the field of RoL. On the one hand, there is the EIDHR : a budget line which targets civil society projects. On the other hand, there are the TACIS and MEDA budget lines which finance institutional reforms in the partner country. The focus of EIDHR activities is on improving access to justice by training human rights NGOs and lawyers. The access to justice agenda aims at empowering the disadvantaged and at changing the current distribution of power, whereas the MEDA/TACIS activities are aimed at bolstering the regimes in power. The MEDA approach is in line with the reform agenda of the authorities in power, which for obvious reasons are opposed to any fundamental change in the distribution of power within the state (Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, 2004; Jones and Emerson, 2005). The potential of the EIDHR activities to bring about change should not be overstated, as the sums disbursed under this scheme are small compared to the MEDA activities (Holden, 2005).


Recently new stakeholders have taken an interest in the judicial reform agenda. Indeed policy documents, such as the regional programme on JHA cooperation under the MEDA programme or the JHA Action Plan for Ukraine, show that JHA actors are getting involved in judicial reform (Council of the European Union, 2003; European Commission, 2005). The issue has also been raised in a number of the JHA Sub-Committee meetings held with Moldova and Ukraine. The Commission is taking a lead on these questions (Interview DG JHA, May, 2005). The ambition to promote judicial reform activities through the external dimension of the AFSJ encounters one major obstacle, namely, the absence of a legal basis. This problem stems from the fact that any activity the EU launches under the external dimension of the AFSJ must be relevant to the construction of the internal project (Council of the European Union, 2000).

The Policy Outcomes


On the level of the policy objectives, the differentiation between ‘milieu’ and ‘possession’ goals will be taken over. Milieu goals are those which aim to shape the environment in which the EU acts, for example, by promoting democracy, whereas possession goals are more driven by self-interest (Smith, 2006 drawing on A. Wolfers). Both types of policy objectives can be pursued with either purposive or reflexive goals in mind, depending on whether an organisation strives for realising the policy objective or whether it attempts to maximise its power through a particular course of action. For the purpose of this paper, ‘norms’ based objectives are those which reflect the major preoccupations of the third country, whereas the security objectives are aimed at enhancing the EU’s security interests.


In terms of modes of interaction, a distinction between ‘partnership-oriented’and ‘asymmetric’ modes of interaction is proposed. Partnership based interaction relies either on joint ownership and participation, or on the creation of ‘inclusionary’ networks of law enforcement officials. Inclusionary networks are present when either the law enforcement agencies cooperate on an equal footing in implementing or enforcing the law, or when a mutual exchange of information takes place. A further manifestation of the partnership approach is the adoption of common standards for cooperation in the form of memoranda of understanding. [5][5] The network differentiation draws on the work of A.... The ‘asymmetric’ mode of interaction manifests itself through the extension of the reach of EU norms to third countries to ensure a higher degree of legal approximation, without, however, allowing the third state to adapt the norms to its needs. In this context, policy networks are either used as vehicles for transferring norms, or they are exclusionary in that partner country representatives do not participate with the same rights and obligations. The modes of interaction also differ with regard to their underlying logic of action (Kelley, 2004; Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, 2004). The aims of conditionality are to influence the cost-benefit calculation of the partner country, when it decides on complying or not with international standards. It is based on the logic of consequentialism. Social learning attempts to bring a country closer to the EU because it identifies with the European norms and acknowledges their legitimacy and validity. Social learning explanations are based on the logic of appropriateness.


In the next section the outcome will be scrutinised in the issue areas under investigation and in the final part, the bureaucratic constellations and the outcomes will be linked. The basic dilemma between promoting security and norms is present in all issue areas, but the manner in which the balance is struck and the chosen instruments differ.

Linking Bureaucratic Politics and Policy Outcomes


On the whole we witness a power struggle between the Council and the Commission with regard to external anti-drugs policy. The sectoral policy makers prevail with respect to agenda setting, but not with respect to the distribution of funds. In the anti-corruption area, an inactive Council contrasts with an active Commission. The latter remains split on the question of how to promote anti-corruption reforms. Lastly, in the field of judicial reform there is a divide within the group of macro policy makers, between the advocates of a political and a technical approach.


On the level of policy objectives, it has been shown that security considerations prevail in the anti-drugs policy. Anti-corruption policy remains torn between normative and security ambitions. Judicial reform comes closest to a normative policy. The modes of interaction used to promote the anti-drugs policy are mainly asymmetric but the strong influence on spending exerted by the macro-policy makers ensures that comprehensive projects are also realised. Anti-corruption policy reveals a mix of partnership-oriented modes of interaction, e.g. peer reviews and the increased reliance on asymmetric instruments. Judicial reform is mostly promoted through a partnership mode of interaction.


The first expectation formulated in the section on bureaucratic politics has been confirmed, as we have seen numerous occasions in which reflexive goals were pursued. The EU institutions are gaining in influence in the area of RoL promotion, but we cannot yet speak of an EU RoL policy. The Commission seems to be using the JHA external agenda as a means to expand its external competences by exploiting the void that has prevailed in this field of activity hitherto. Overall the findings point to the importance of the legal framework under which an action is adopted, as the choice of a first or a second pillar legal basis, profoundly influences the the distribution of powers of the actors in a given issue area.

Lessons to be Learned on the EU as a Power in International Relations ?


This final section argues that the analysis of policy making and policy outcome tell us something about the EU’s standing as a power in the international arena. The debate on whether the EU is a normative or a strategic power has dominated the debates on EU foreign policy during the last few years (Bicchi, 2006; Manners, 2002; 2004; Sjursen, 2006). Unfortunately most of the analysis stays on an abstract level without really looking at what the EU does. One way to link the theoretical debate on the nature of the power and what we observe in reality has been proposed by K. Smith. She established an ideal type for classifying the EU as a power using the dimensions of ends, instruments, logics of action and democratic control (Smith, 2006). This is the approach which will be followed in this conclusion.


The hybrid standing of the RoL make it an interesting case to determine the nature of the EU’s power in international relations : if RoL were merely framed in good governance terms and promoted with partnership instruments then we would speak of the EU as a normative power. On the contrary, if the EU were a strategic power it would emphasise security objectives and rely on asymmetric modes of interaction. The observed mix on the level of both objectives and applied instruments indicates that it is not appropriate to classify the EU as either a normative or a strategic power in this area. Instead we need to develop tools that take into account elements of both. As a last step, we need to link policy making and the power outcomes.


From the empirical observations we can hypothesise that for the ideal typical normative or strategic power to occur either one of the actor constellations has to clearly dominate, or a tightly knit coordination mechanism needs to exist. We have seen that neither one nor the other is the case, and hence we would conclude that the policy making procedures lay the foundations for the emergence of the hybrid power EU. The main difficulties for reaching a coherent outcome are, on the one hand, the control the macro policy makers exert on the level of funding and, on the other hand their limited expertise, experience and resources, when it comes to internal security questions.


In conclusion, we can state that the EU displays elements of both a normative and a strategic power in all sub-fields, and that for that reason, the debate opposing the two power logics is not of great use to the investigation of external action in specific policy fields. There is a need to elaborate conceptualizations that either build bridges between the powers or make a serious attempt to deconstruct the dichotomy (Youngs, 2004).

‘More for More’ but ‘More of the Same’, too: A Review of the New European Neighbourhood Policy

1) Introduction

As mass demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt managed to topple long standing authoritarian presidents, and the unrest spilled over to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), many were taken by surprise. The European Union (EU), too, was caught off-guard and its approach towards these countries in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was under question. A result of the 2004 enlargement round that added ten new member states to the Union in the East and the Mediterranean, the ENP was adopted by the EU in that year as a response to the changed environment created by enlargement – that is, the new proximity to unstable regions. In order to ensure stability at the EU’s borders, the Commission suggested creating a ring of politically reliable countries around the Union[1] through a new framework that would draw from the successful experience of providing incentives for reform in the enlargement process, just falling short of the membership incentive itself (Kelley 2006; European Commission 2003, 2004).

The main mechanism of this policy is ‘conditionality’: offering closer political and economic co-operation with the EU on the condition of the acknowledgement of and reforms towards values like democracy, respect for human rights, good governance, the rule of law, market economy principles and sustainable development, that are assumed to be shared by both the EU and its neighbours (European Commission 2003, 2004; Schimmelfennig and Schultz 2008; Kelley 2006). Soon, the ENP was criticised because it emulates instruments used previously in enlargement. However, the EU has learned from previous experience and introduced novelties like regional and country-specific differentiation (Kelley 2006), offering the eastern and southern neighbourhoods their own policy framework in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM, following from the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership EMP or ‘Barcelona Process’). Furthermore, based on a country report produced by the Commission spelling out areas of necessary reform for each country, participating governments agreed on an Action Plan with the EU that entails ‘an agenda of political and economic reforms by means of short and medium-term (3-5 years) priorities’ (European Commission 2012).

Clearly, given the aims (democracy, human rights and economic prosperity) and means (political and economic integration) suggested by the Commission, the EU must assume that the best way to ensure political stability in its neighbourhood is by establishing regimes that respect European values and, in many ways, become more like Europe. However, the EU has not only been accused of hypocrisy in its application of the ENP, prioritising economic integration over political progress and being largely unsuccessful in delivering progress in the political field (Teti 2012; Pace and Cavatorta 2012; Pace 2010, 2009; Youngs 2006). Some scholars have even gone so far as to identify the very economic reforms that are part of the ENP as one of the causes for the uprisings that rocked the Arab world in 2011 (Teti and Gervasio 2011; Kandil 2012).

In March 2011 the Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (High Representative) reacted to those events by proposing a reviewed ENP in light of these ‘historic changes’ (COM(2011)200), followed by further policy documents in 2011 and 2012 (COM(2011)303; EU Commission 2012). But are the suggested changes substantive or merely rhetorical? How did the Arab uprisings reveal the ENP’s weaknesses and does the revision address the shortcomings of previous policy?

This paper will attempt to provide answers. The next part shall briefly outline and contrast competing theoretical conceptions of the ENP. A subsequent section assesses how the ‘Arab Spring’[2] has challenged the policy, creating the basis upon which the revisions can be judged. A following discussion will analyse whether the revisions by the EU meet that challenge. By way of conclusion, the paper finds that instead of offering a substantially new approach, the EU is doing ‘more of the same’, thereby missing an opportunity to engage with its neighbours.

2) Theoretical Approaches to the ENP

Rationalist Theories

The ENP has variously been interpreted as a ‘realist’ strategy, driven by national states to increase their geopolitical influence (cf. Rynning and Jensen 2012; Biscop 2012); a neo-functionalist project of the supranational actors of the EU, especially the Commission (Kelley 2006); or inspired by efforts of transnational actors like corporations, and social movements/groups (Manners 2012). Besides research into the origins of the ENP, a rationalist, positivist research agenda also scrutinises its effectiveness, assessing how well the EU uses the incentives it can offer to its partner countries to further its own policy goals. Thus, Schimmelfennig and Scholtz (2008) analyse conditionality as a democracy-promotion instrument and find that the two most important factors for its success are the size of the incentives offered and the credibility of the offers and threats that are part of the policy.

Critical Theories

Investigating the origins of social structures and how social interaction constitutes and reconstitutes social reality, social constructivist approaches to the ENP focus on the role of norms, identity and socialisation as well as ideational processes. Post-structural thought aims at revealing EU structures of knowledge by applying methods of discursive deconstruction and genealogical excavation (Pace 2010a). Critical social theory, rarely applied to the EU, seeks to both critique and change society at the same time (Manners 2012). Situated in this field of critical inquiry, the normative power approach seeks to study ideational aspects of the EU to ‘both critique and change the EU in world politics’ (Manners 2012:36; 2008). The main point drawn from this approach is the need for consistency and coherence in the implementation of the ENP. If the EU wants to convince other countries to reform on its own lines, then it must adhere to its norms domestically and apply them in its relations with all countries (Manners 2012).

This paper will scrutinise the ENP from two angles: the rationalist set of checks will be applied to the EU’s performance in applying conditionality effectively, while, from a critical theory perspective, the effects of the EU’s behaviour on its normative power in relation to the ENP will be assessed.

3) The Old ENP and the Arab Uprisings

Conditionality: Lacking Incentives and Coherence

Besides offering money to its partner countries, the EU also gave them the opportunity to partially participate in the European single market, based on approximating their own legislation to that of the EU (its acquis), as well as ‘the participation in a number of EU programmes and improved interconnection and physical links with the EU’ (European Commission 2004:14). In the words of then-EU Commission President Romano Prodi (2002) the EU wanted to offer ‘everything but institutions’.

Despite such boldness, the EU’s neighbours hardly reformed at all. This can partly be explained with the size and nature of the incentives offered to those regimes. For the targeted regimes, the (financial and political) benefits accrued from reform must outweigh the costs (e.g. risk of power loss), and both incentives and threats must be realistic in order to have any effect (Schimmelfennig and Scholtz 2008). The incentive of direct monetary transfers is obvious. However, the amounts offered to the partner countries were well below anything that could motivate authoritarian governments to meaningfully liberalise. Furthermore, the numbers are dwarfed by the expenditure that other actors, including even the EU members’ national programmes and the United States, offer (Witney and Dworkin [WD] 2012).

As for access to and integration into the EU market, this should be a strong incentive, given the large efficiency gains free trade deals can accrue. However, designing this via legislative approximation to the acquis is problematic. While this may be desirable for those (Eastern) countries that still have a long-term prospect of joining the EU, it does not apply to the Mediterranean. The bilateral deals the EU offers (and partially implemented) to its partners do not support regional trade, but on the contrary lead to a Brussels-oriented ‘hub-and-spoke’ approach that could inhibit regional economic integration (WD 2012:64). Also, the economies of the neighbourhood are often far from able to compete with European economies, making large-scale trade liberalisation only a long-term perspective. The EU also proposed intensified political dialogue through the ENP, encompassing foreign and security issues, including involvement in, for example, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, but this has hardly been implemented (European Commission 2004; WD 2012),

The EU’s most severe mistake was its incoherent application of conditionality. Despite a total lack of political reforms, the EU went ahead and intensified economic cooperation with several countries, as well as lifted their status within the programme (Grant 2011, Youngs 2006). This incoherence signals to the partner countries that the EU will not only keep relations with them despite their behaviour, but even intensify them.

Socialisation/Normative Power

Beyond conditionality, the EU also follows a strategy of socialisation, i.e. attempting to change countries’ behaviour by exerting ‘reputational pressures through shaming, persuasion and other efforts to socialise state actors’, and via domestic opposition groups (Kelley 2006: 39 quoting Johnston 2001:488; Schimmelfennig and Scholtz 2008). Based on the assumption that the EU and its values are desirable models to emulate, this links in with the EU’s self-perception as a ‘soft’ or ‘normative power’ (Manners 2012, 2008, 2002; Pace 2007). The EU does not have the historical baggage of colonialism that some of its member states carry when acting in the Middle East and is thus in a much stronger position to criticise certain political practices. Also, its image of providing peace and prosperity in its member states is a strong normative claim that bears fruit when dealing with Third World countries (WD 2012).

However, the EU designed its democracy-promotion strategies on the lines of its own idea of democracy rather than that present in the target societies. In an extensive study of democracy conception in the Middle East, Pace (2009:11) quotes from an interview with Dr Rafik Habib, an Egyptian Coptic intellectual, who finds that

‘politics for the ordinary Egyptian is about three specific issues: one, the essentials of life like food, housing, medical services, and so on; two, the state’s role in protecting their country; and three, the protection of religious rules and principles.’

The liberal model of state and society promoted by the EU as part of the ENP does not address these issues at all. Contrarily, it emphasises limiting the state’s capacity and adopting secularism as preconditions for democracy. Together with the market liberalisations, this model is not in tune with the political goals of the target-societies (Pace 2009,2010).

As in the application of conditionality, the EU’s credibility was undermined when it emerged that these norms were applied selectively. The non-recognition of the democratically elected Hamas in the Palestinian territories in 2006 severely undermined EU’s credibility regarding democracy-promotion in the Arab world, as does its lack of engagement in the Middle East Peace Process altogether (Pace 2010,2009; Youngs 2006; Biscop 2010). The impression created is ‘that the EU favours stability and its economic – and energy – interests over reform (Biscop 2010:76).

The Uprisings: An Opportunity Missed

Both in Tunisia and in Egypt – the countries that kicked off the uprisings – actors who had previously received little attention by the EU, as well as by scholars, were crucial to the success of the overturning of the old regimes. These included trade unions and other workers’ organisations, which organised general strikes in the days of the protest that were pivotal to ending the dictatorships (Pace and Cavatorta 2012; Teti and Gervasio 2011). The main motivation for protesters to participate in the first place seems to have been the unbearable socioeconomic situation, spawning the prominent slogan ‘aish, hurriya, kamara insaaniyya’ (bread, freedom, social dignity) (Teti and Gervasio 2011).

In a roundabout way, the EU did play a role in bringing about change. It had supported market liberalisations that effectively impoverished large swathes of populations in the Arab world while making the personal enrichment of the elite possible. This, thus, motivated the protesters’ demands for their rights (ibid; Kandil 2012; Hinnebusch 2006). These neoliberal reforms ‘if anything entrenched’ authoritarian regimes (WD 2012:22) and Pace and Cavatorta (2012:131) expect that after the uprisings

‘ it is unlikely (…) that more neo-liberal structural reforms will be accepted and acceptable, particularly if dictated by morally and financially bankrupt entities such as the European Union, which had consistently lauded authoritarian regimes in the region for their economic reformism’ (emphasis added).

The uprisings thus brought into focus a long criticised policy: while the EU was rhetorically advocating democracy and human rights in the region, it cooperated with authoritarian regimes at the same time and thereby may even have prolonged their life span to the political and economic detriment of the general populations in these countries.

4) A New, Better ENP?

The EU prides its ‘tradition of supporting countries in transition from autocratic regimes to democracy’, (COM(2011)200:2). However, as has been shown above, so far it has mostly not lived up to its own standard. The uprisings in the Arab world gave it a chance to reposition itself and in its own judgement, it reacted boldly and with a qualitatively new approach (ibid). The changes of the ENP also come at the end of a policy review that had begun in early 2010 as well as a reorganisation and expansion of institutional responsibilities for external affairs of the EU due to the Lisbon Treaty.


One of the most emphasised innovations of the new ENP is the ‘more for more’ approach. While its novelty as such is doubtful (Teti 2012), it does contain an implicit admission that in previous years the ‘conditionality’ of European assistance had actually covered complicity with authoritarian regimes (WD 2012). As the above discussion showed, stricter application of conditionality should be helpful, both in the purely utilitarian sense as well as enhancing EU normative power. The ENP can only be an advantage should the Commission keep its promise to consistently adapt levels of support to partners ‘according to progress on political reforms and building deep democracy’ (COM(2011)303:3).

The incentives the EU now offers are focussed on the ‘3Ms’: Money, Markets, and Mobility. An extra €1.2 billion on top of the already budgeted €5.7 billion for the 2011–13 period have been promised by the Commission for the new ENP, increases in lending by the European Investment Bank of €1 billion (plus 20%) for the Mediterranean countries, as well as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which would change its mandate in order to lend in the neighbourhood a planned €2.5 billion. It is unclear though how much of this money – both old and new – is actually being dispersed, due to both slow allocation of funds as well as some not being retrieved. Despite billions of Euros being made available, it seems that ‘the actual extra money going south in 2011 amounted to less than €200 million’ (WD 2012:29; COM(2011)303). And despite the increase in spending, the problem of competing donors with bigger pockets and fewer demands remains (WD 2012).

Under the headline of ‘migration and mobility’, the EU promises visa facilitations aimed in particular at students, researchers and business people. But these measures depend on partner countries’ commitments to tackle illegal cross-Mediterranean migration and it seems that its reduction is their main target. In the face of the high demands set by the EU, the North African states show little eagerness to engage in a framework that as yet provides little incentives (ibid).

As for markets, the EU proposed Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreements (DCFTAs) to Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan at the end of 2011. However, while there has been a tariff-cutting deal with Morocco and negotiations are underway with Tunisia, other negotiations have not even started. Given that it took five years to negotiate a deal with Ukraine, it is highly questionable how useful this approach is to the democratic transition of the Mediterranean countries that are struggling economically and urgently need quick results to gain legitimacy. There is some funding to support the economic environment for the development of small and medium enterprises, help improve the investment climate (for European businesses), and offer macroeconomic advice and (minor) assistance (COM(2011)200; COM(2011)303), but this is too long-term-oriented or too little to have immediate impact. Unfortunately, Europe, mired in its own economic crisis, seems to be unwilling to make such offers.


In terms of being more attuned with the region, the above discussion on the old ENP argued that the EU would have to discard the promotion of its own narrow view of democracy in favour of supporting local democratic actors and their versions of democracy. To improve its credibility and thus normative power the EU should support social democratic, rather than (neo) liberal, reforms. A thorough analysis of the language employed in the EU’s policy documents on Middle East democracy-promotion before and after the uprisings by Teti (2012) shows though that while ‘talking the talk’, the EU has not changed its substantive democracy-promotion policies towards the region, still favouring neoliberal reform over substantive democratic reform: While the Commission says it is committed to supporting ‘deep democracy’, its substantive policy suggestions are still at odds with this. For instance, the unchanged focus on legislative approximation, rather than considering alternative concepts like moving towards a customs union modelled on the experience with Turkey, shows that the EU has not moved away from the belief that its neighbours’ main objective is becoming more like Europe.

Two innovations in democracy-promotion deserve attention despite being unfinished projects: the European Endowment for Democracy (EED) and the Civil Society Facility (CSF). The latter is focussed on identifying and satisfying the financial needs of civil society organisations in the neighbourhood, as well as supporting ‘people-to-people’ contacts under the old ENP (European Commission and High Representative 2012b). While this is good, it is not a revolutionary move. The EED however offers new opportunities to support pro-democracy movements in the neighbourhood through its relative institutional independence (it is organised as a private foundation under Belgian law), which could keep it at an arm’s length from the EU bureaucracy and grant some leeway in its behaviour towards authoritarian governments (Richter and Leininger 2012; European Union 2013). To enhance the EU’s normative power and to be more successful in the field of democratisation, these new institutions should be accompanied by more criticism and condemnation by the EU of authoritarian practices and human rights violations in neighbour countries. Additionally, there should be an end to the exceptions made in conditionality (Pace 2009b; Youngs 2006). The EU’s inability to sort out these internal difficulties cannot bode well for its ability to project normative power.

Implementation of the New ENP

As part of the implementation of the new ENP, there have already been several high-level diplomatic visits to the neighbouring regions by representatives of the EU and its member states and by EU observation missions, offering financial and organisational support and training for electoral observation, as well as increased spending on existing programmes like the ERASMUS academic exchange. The EU has also appointed a Special Representative for the region, who seems to be quite effective in serving as a catalyst for the organisation of Task Forces that can coordinate interventions made by several international organisations and local partners (WD 2012). Nonetheless, as observer Kurt Debeuf (2012) reports from Cairo, in focussing on governments while continuing to sideline civil society in Egypt, the EU still conveys that it seems to care more about its hard interests than its normative promises.

5) Conclusion and Outlook

The EU deserves some credit for reacting quickly and managing to get itself on the ‘right side of history’ in the uprisings by supporting the movements for change relatively early on, if only rhetorically so far. Regarding the conditionality aspect of the ENP, the EU rightly wants to support ‘inclusive growth’ in order to aid the transition to democracy, having recognised that the social situation is a major cause for the social unrest. However, as in the past, the EU’s substantive policies cannot deliver this goal sufficiently. Instead of offering long-term DCFTAs, the EU should offer more immediate incentives. Offering a less complicated and broader access to the EU single market is one powerful option, which currently seems to be hampered by economically challenged member states.

One of the new ENP’s main promises is ‘more for more’. It seems to be ‘more of the same’: its cornerstone is still the conditionality mechanism, albeit hopefully more coherently applied, and the incentives are still focussed on long-term economic liberalisation, which has failed in the past. In times of economic difficulty, the Commission will be unable to provide much larger monetary incentives to its neighbours. However, if the EU can act more coherently regarding human rights and democracy, the newly founded EED may provide an opportunity to restore some of the lost credibility, which will be beneficial from a purely rationalist perspective as well as help enhance the EU’s normative power.  If the EU furthermore manages to coordinate its ENP well enough with the better equipped national programmes of its member states, it has an historic opportunity to shape its neighbourhood. As the US shifts its focus away from the Middle East to the Asia/Pacific region, the EU has a great chance to (re-)enter this region, which is crucially important to its own future in many policy areas.

Witney and Dworkin’s (2012) worry that the EU, while promoting its values and supporting neighbouring countries, may not think in terms of furthering its interests, suggesting that overly normative foreign policy could hurt the EU. Yet the above analysis suggests the opposite: standing for Europe’s values like democracy, freedom and social justice is not merely altruistic but will pay off in the long run by creating a stable neighbourhood that also moves normatively closer to the EU and thereby facilitates further political and economic cooperation. Ironically, while the ENP is presented as a policy that is precisely meant to pursue such a future, its substantive strategies have so far been undermining this aim.


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[1] The ENP applies to all North African and Middle Eastern states that share an EU sea border plus Jordan, the Eastern neighbours of Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova as well as the Caucasus states Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, but excludes Russia. Initially designed for those Eastern countries the EU shares a land border with, it was expanded towards the south and the Caucasus

[2] The term ‘Arab Spring’ was criticised for its Orientalist connotations (cf. El Mahdi 2011). This paper will use ‘Arab uprisings’ instead.

Written by: Fabian Stroetges
Written at: Durham University
Written for: Dr Christian Schweiger
Date written: Jan 2013

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