One decade on from the launch of European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), and in the light of political developments in Europe and along its borders, it's time to adopt a new policy approach where the main role will not be played by national governments alone but also by civil society. Local authorities, municipalities and regions must play a key part at all stages of this policy, including setting priorities, evaluating outcomes and auditing government actions, suggests the European Committee of the Regions opinion prepared by Nikolaos Chiotakis (EL/EPP), Member of Kifissia Municipal Council. The document adopted in the CoR's plenary session on Thursday was prepared in response to the European Commission consultation process ahead of the planned ENP review.
"It is very important to include local and regional levels of government in the EU's actions, since democracy building and democratic transition begin first and foremost at grassroots level and cannot be imposed from above. For democracy to be stable and deeply rooted, is vital that it be embraced by the local community as a whole", rapporteur Chiotakis highlights.
The CoR considers that the new European Neighbourhood Policy should promote European values, support public administrative reform and decentralisation and adopt a flexible and tailored approach for each partner country, setting specific objectives and offering a clear timeframe for the implementation of its policies. "The new ENP will have little or no impact if there are no concrete benefits for particular stakeholders or if those benefits are only likely to emerge in the distant future", Chiotakis warns.
Closer cooperation on energy issues should be a significant part of the EU's relations with its neighbours given that many of the partner countries are significant suppliers of energy sources for the EU Member States. Security and migration policies are other areas where EU's engagement with its neighbours is particularly important, including at sub-national level where CoR is cooperating with EU's Southern and Eastern neighbour countries via the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) and the Conference of Regional and Local authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP).
The opinion suggests applying macro-regional approach to the Mediterranean basin based on the successful experience in the Baltic Sea and Danube macro-regions. It also recommends extending twinning and TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Programme) projects between local and regional authorities in the EU and ENP states, and reiterates the call to extend the scope of the Local Administration Facility (LAF) to the neighbourhood. The feasibility of incorporating methodologies, concepts and instruments of European cohesion and structural policies into the neighbourhood policy should be assessed, and further strengthening of the AMICI initiative (the Southern Mediterranean Investment Coordination initiative) made a priority.
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