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Europe

The EU and its partners

The European Union maintains close and friendly ties with its neighbours.
EU External Action
© efta.int

The European Union pursues the goal of creating a stable, secure and prosperous common area within its outer borders. This also includes maintaining close and friendly relations with the EU’s immediate neighbours, and this is likewise a key element of German foreign policy.

Sharing standards and values

The EU has been relying on a systematic European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) since 2004. This instrument forms the basis on which the EU structures its relations with the 16 neighbouring countries both to the south of the EU territory – namely Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestine Territories, Tunisia and (in part suspended) Libya – and to the east with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine.

The first group of nations comes under the heading of the “Euro-Mediterranean Partnership”, while the latter group comprises the “Eastern Partnership”. Under the umbrella of the ENP both groups have their own committees and sets of objectives, whereby the underlying idea is the same in both cases: to forge closer ties and share standards and values.

Create stable conditions

The ENP is not to be confused with the EU’s enlargement agenda. The ENP makes no preliminary decisions about possible accession to the EU, but rather is an instrument for maintaining favourable relations with neighbouring countries and in this way stable conditions in the immediate vicinity. In the process, the European Union offers its neighbours a privileged partnership under the condition that both sides commit to the values of democracy and human rights, the rule of law, responsible governance, the principles of the market economy, and sustainable development.

The partnership also includes regular political exchange, intensive economic cooperation, and stronger mobility from and into the EU. Together with each country, the EU regularly devises a bilateral Action Plan and specifies priorities for political and economic reforms.

Financial support

The ENP also supports the realization of these Action Plans by providing financial assistance and technical cooperation. In this context, the ENP is based on the principle of “more for more”: Anyone purposefully driving the expansion of democratic reforms and liberal societies receives more funding. How much financing will be available in the next few years for the ENP depends on the EU’s multi-annual financial framework (MFF) which the Union is currently negotiating for the 2021-2027 period and where much has still to be decided. The negotiations are scheduled to be concluded by the end of 2020 and thus during Germany’s EU Council Presidency.

Cooperation with Africa and China

During Germany’s EU Council Presidency, the European Union is also seeking to resolve a new EU-Africa strategy in order to take the partnership to “a new level”, as Commission President Ursula von der Leyen put it. This will centre around offers to support Africa, with the aim of triggering a digital and climate-friendly upturn on the continent. The intention is likewise to sign off the new strategy before the end of Germany’s Council Presidency. Brussels and Berlin view Africa as a strategic partner in coming years, and European-African relations therefore as an important element for a successful and expanded neighbourhood policy. Whether the EU-Africa summit will still be held in the autumn is uncertain given the Coronavirus pandemic.

Another foreign policy aspect to be continued during Germany’s Council Presidency is the Union’s dialogue with China. The plan is to swiftly rearrange to hold the EU-China summit, which was scheduled for mid-September in Leipzig and has likewise been postponed owing to COVID-19. Key topics to be addressed are conclusion of an investment treaty, progress in climate protection, and mutual relations with Africa. Moreover, the dialogue with China also focusses on questions of the rule of law and human rights.