The ENP was an offer to the EU neighbours for deeper political and economic integration under the condition of several reforms or modernization including towards higher level of democracy, rule of law, market-oriented economy and so on based on the principle of “more for more”. It might look attractive for those states with high so-called “Euro-hope” or “Euro-optimism” which means a foreseeable membership to the EU, states such as Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia. However, it is important to remember that the ENP was launched to stop the enlargement of the European Union which means the desire for membership should be out of the table.
Even though implementing EU conditions on state economies has been relatively reachable, troubles began when the reform was brought to the political fields. EU values may be relevant for the EU member states and their allies, when it comes to the states with different values, history, government and culture, applicability of the EU values remain under question. Furthermore, ambiguity of the values arose during the last years within the Union with the rise of nationalism and undemocratic governments with anti-EU values such as Orbàn’s Hungary.
Three Ms (money, mobility, and market) policy implemented by the EU through European Neighborhood Policy is indeed a big deal for the neighbour countries in many levels, from individuals to the companies and governments, thousands of people benefit from them in different ways. Thus, EU’s influence on eastern neighbors protects its presence and encourages more and more states towards adaptation of EU values which, simultaneously, also serves EU’s geopolitical aims against old-rival who rallies for the same aim – Russia.
Last two decades revealed the troubles in EU’s relationship with its neighbors to the east due to several reasons, among others, EU’s high level of conditions for closer relationship, Russia’s use of hard power in Georgia and Ukraine which has not been responded properly and so on. Although the ENP has gone ups and downs for almost two decades, EU’s ‘carrots and sticks’ approach costed it instability and relevant loss of influence in the eastern border.
According to some critics the ENP has been a failure and should be abolished which seems to be impractical as it would be costly. Furthermore, the EU’s policy towards its eastern neighbor must be defined and regulated. Thus, abolishing two-decade old project and re-creating the new one with little or no difference makes no sense. Instead, the EU either should change the whole policy towards the neighbor in the direction of accession which would be overturn the Prodi’s “everything but institution” worry, or it should revise the conditions which would eventually increase its value-exporting policy in exchange of market.
Decrease in conditionality would also secure EU’s energy import as it is heavily dependent on non-EU states in terms of energy, more specifically, gas supplies. Such policy would result in a win-win for the EU as well as a partner state. As an empirical recent example, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s very recent visit to Azerbaijan to double the gas supplies imports to the EU can be given. During the announcement speech at the end of the visit, she called Azerbaijan a “trustworthy” energy supplier although the EU has been a long critique of Azerbaijan because of the political differences.
So, EU’s conditionality should not only be decreased towards the ENP states, but also other world powers as well such as China and Russia. There is a saying: “keep your friends close but enemies closer”. By following such ideology, EU may deeper the cooperation with other global powers if what it is looking for in the world is the “peace”, not a “soft dominance”.
In the spirit of Bangkok Declaration of 1993 – the values are relative and there is no universal value in a sense that we cannot transfer the Western values to the east or vice-versa. Therefore, EU’s use of its market as a tool to export EU values might work for some countries which are in need of economic assistance, but not for a country with a stable economy.