The Effectiveness of the European Neighbourhood Policy

by Eddie Copeland

Launched by the European Union (EU) in 2004, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) has provoked a vast array of academic enquiry and commentary.  Amongst the various contributors to this literature, there is widespread acknowledgement that the ENP has at best been only partially effective (Freyburg et al., 2009; Belchev and Nicolaides, 2010).  The point of greater contestation concerns why this has been the case, a question which forms the central focus of this article.  Commentators such as Schimmelfennig and Scholtz (2008) and Sherr (2010) argue that the lack of a realistic possibility of EU membership is the Achilles’ heel of the ENP, preventing it from instilling serious reform in so-called ‘partner’ countries (i.e. the states under the ENP’s remit).  Others (see: Kelley, 2006; Barbé and Johansson-Nogués, 2008) acknowledge that the lack of accession potential is a significant problem, but offer additional explanations both within and external to the ENP which explain its ineffectiveness.  Whilst agreeing that its ineffectiveness can be attributed to internal shortfalls (such as poor benchmarking of rule compliance), as well as external factors (such as the competing influence of other international actors), this article will challenge the idea that the ENP can be criticised for not offering the possibility of EU membership when this was explicitly never the programme’s purpose.  Instead, it will be argued that the ENP should be judged by its own stated objectives, and that its effectiveness must be evaluated with consideration to the tools the policy actually has at its disposal, and the environment in which it operates.  This article will thereby explain why it is these factors which can fairly be argued to be the genuine causes of ENP ineffectiveness.


The ENP covers sixteen countries, including former Soviet states such as Azerbaijan and Ukraine, as well as non-Soviet descendants including Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia.  The scope of this article will be to focus solely on the ENP’s effectiveness vis-à-vis the states of the former Soviet Union.  More specifically, and given the limited space for discussion, the approach will be to follow Gawrich et al. (2010) in using Ukraine as a principal – although not exclusive – case study.  As they assert, it is harder to extrapolate wider conclusions from other former Soviet countries which are: not active in the ENP (Belarus); too small to draw general conclusions (Moldova); or have relations with the EU which are ‘focused on specific issues like energy and conflict resolution (Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia)’ (2010: 1211).

Evaluating ENP Effectiveness

Before attempting to assess the ENP’s effectiveness, it is first necessary to clarify the criteria against which it is to be judged.  Put differently: what is the appropriate measure of effectiveness?  Whether explicitly stated or implicitly inferred, much of the academic literature on the ENP appears to evaluate its performance in comparison with the reforms produced in candidate countries during the EU’s Enlargement process in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Yet this is surely not an appropriate measure.  The purpose of the accession process was to prepare countries like Poland and Slovakia for full integration with the EU’s acquis communautaire, markets and institutions.  Inevitably this required significant reform within, and compliance by, candidate countries.  By contrast, and as explicitly and unequivocally stated by the EU itself: ‘The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is not about membership of the EU…  If an accession perspective were to be offered at some point in the future… this would be a separate process’ (European Commission, undated, emphasis mine).  It is therefore unreasonable to expect ENP states to attain the same levels of reform as their accession candidate counterparts.  After all, for what purpose would such reforms be carried out?  The problem is therefore one of unrealistic expectations.  As one commentator puts it: ‘The Union cannot expect to transform the whole of ‘wider Europe’ in the way it did the Central and East European candidates.  Those countries identified with the EU as a way of reaffirming their Europeanness, and accession was clearly open to them’ (Grabbe, 2004: 6).  The approach of this article, therefore, is to agree with Gawrich et al. (2010) that the ENP should be judged solely by its own stated aims, and especially the targets detailed in the country-specific Action Plans.

What then are the ENP’s stated aims?  The European Commission cites three main high-level objectives, declaring the ENP to be a means for states to work jointly with the EU to: 1) ‘promote prosperity… by supporting our neighbours’ economic reform processes and offering significant economic integration’, 2) ‘advance freedom and democracy… by deepening political cooperation, on the basis of shared values and common interests’, and 3) ‘promote security and stability by working with neighbours to address development, environment, non-proliferation and counter-terrorism issues’.  These general aims are then translated into more specific measures, detailed in the country Action Plans agreed bilaterally with each ENP partner state (European Commission, undated).

Therefore, judging the ENP by its own stated objectives, what is the evidence that it has been ineffective?  Multiple reports concur that despite being the ‘most promising case for the success of Neighbourhood Europeanization’ (Gawrich et al., 2010: 1211), Ukraine has fallen far short of the aims explicitly laid out in its ENP Action Plan (AP).  According to the EU’s own 2008 Progress Report: ‘Ukraine dropped from 118 to 134th place in Transparency International’s Perceptions of Corruption Index’; ‘made no or only limited progress in the implementation of some key political reform measures’; ‘proposals to reform the judiciary were not implemented’; ‘Torture and ill-treatment in police detention continued to be widely reported’; and ‘threats to journalists critical of officials, businessmen or prominent figures have occurred’ (2008: 3-4).  In a separate study of the same year, the Razumkov Centre found that ‘although 224 of 227 government measures complied with the content of the AP, only 11… of 73 items (priorities) listed in the AP have been fulfilled’ (quoted in Garwich et al., 2010: 1229).  A more recent briefing paper by Chatham House provides a pessimistic assessment of political developments in Ukraine since the 2010 election of President Yanukovych.  Cataloguing numerous examples of failure in improving practice in democracy, energy and Justice and Home Affairs, Sherr opines that ‘The fusion between power and money obstructs every necessary change in the country’ (2010: 2).  Most alarmingly for democratic progress, he concludes of President Yanukovych that: ‘He does not just preside over an ‘oligarchic dictatorship. He leads it.’ (2010: 4).  In the discussion below, it will become clear that these are just a few of many indicators of ENP ineffectiveness.

Commenting on examples such as those above, several writers argue that the ENP has been ineffective specifically because it does not offer states a realistic possibility of EU membership.  According to one, ‘So long as the EU fails to present Ukraine with credible European membership prospects, it will be on dubious ground in lecturing Ukrainians about European standards’ (Sherr, 2010: 17).  Others claim that ‘The perspective of EU membership would be very helpful in supporting the rule of law.  Yet, the EU does not offer this reward and thus discourages… elite groups’ (Gawrich et al., 2010: 1220).  Schimmelfennig and Scholtz are blunter in assigning causality, asserting that accession conditionality ‘has proven to be a necessary condition of successful EU democracy promotion’ (2008: 188, italics mine).  At the heart of all these statements is the notion of conditionality: the idea that states will only choose to apply domestic reforms on condition that the cost of implementing them is outweighed by the benefits of doing so.  Explaining the impact of the lack of membership potential, Sasse regards the ENP as being ‘conditionality-lite’, arguing that its limited scope for effectiveness when ‘measured against predominant rationalist notions of conditionality, is obvious from the outset’ (2008: 296).

Two comments are necessary in response to such claims.  The first is to highlight that even authors such as Vachudova (2005), who provides wide-ranging evidence of how membership conditionality was a significant factor in driving reform in ECE candidate states, recognise that it is not sufficient in isolation; other factors are also vital.  As she argues, part of the EU’s influence was assisted by the asymmetrical relationship of dependence in favour of the EU, and depended on domestic political support.  Commenting on Vachudova’s work, Kelley (2004) agrees that ‘Even when the EU’s leverage with candidate countries was at its peak, the EU could not base its strategy entirely on political conditionality. The multitude of other membership criteria, competing strategic and economic interests, and intra-EU differences over how to deal with individual candidate countries compromised the credibility of the conditionality’ (Kelley, 2004: 41).  Membership is not a panacea.

The second comment is to again stress that those who attribute ENP ineffectiveness to its lack of accession potential apply a false measure.  Naturally, ENP states have not reformed to the same extent as those which were in the accession process, because they do not have the goal of membership to necessitate reform.  Grabbe articulates this well, declaring that:

‘EU policymakers too easily assume that the new neighbours will adapt to EU norms in the same way the accession countries did. But the Central and East Europeans were motivated by the real and near prospect of accession, which allowed politicians to push through reforms in the name of joining the EU. Without that prospect, countries are less likely to take up the EU’s offers of help, for example in reforming their economies’ (2004: 2).

So whilst this article does not deny that accession criteria have helped drive major reform in candidate countries, it must be emphasised that the ENP was deliberately created to be ‘membership prospect neutral’.  Consequently, it does not make sense to ask: ‘would the ENP be more effective if it offered a membership perspective?’  If a membership prospect were to be added to the ENP, it would become an accession process, and not one designed to strengthen relations with the EU’s near-abroad.  Membership is one thing the ENP simply cannot offer.  Given this, and noting the ENP’s lack of success to date, the argument must therefore focus on whether there are other factors which contribute to its ineffectiveness.  It is to this task that the article now turns its attention.

Internal Factors Affecting ENP Effectiveness

Authors such as Barbé and Johansson-Nogués (2008) point to several aspects of the ENP which explain its ineffectiveness in bringing about reform in partner countries.  These include: 1) the lack of formal benchmarks to measure progress against ENP Action Plan requirements, 2) the lack of consistency in the application of rules across ENP states, 3) the lack of uniformity in ENP rules, 4) the expectations / reality gap of the benefits of participation for partner states, and 5) the asymmetry of interests between the EU and ENP states.

According to the European Commission, a key strength of the ENP is that through the Action Plans, the EU and partner countries can ‘discuss, agree and implement specific, time-bound and measurable objectives’ (European Commission, 2006).  Yet Kelley notices several deviations from this approach which undermine the ENP.  For example, she highlights that the term ‘Benchmarking’ appears just once in Ukraine’s Action Plan, and then ‘only in connection with enterprise policy’ (2006: 36).  She adds that in the European Commission’s own 2004 ENP strategy paper, it is stated that: ‘the EU does not seek to impose priorities or conditions on its partners’ (quoted in Kelley, 2006: 36).  Other writers concur, urging for rule clarity within the ENP given that ‘there is no formal benchmark of demands, in contrast to Enlargement Europeanization, which is based on the acquis communautaire’ (Gawrich et al., 2010: 1216).  Focusing on the issue of conflict management in Georgia, Whitman and Wolff comment that ‘the Action Plans, where they do make specific reference to conflict settlement, are often vague and lack the kind of specificity necessary to tie them credibly to incentives that are only conditionally available to partner countries’ (2010: 102).  Sasse supports this view, stating that the ‘priorities are often phrased in very general terms and often the addressee, the specific time frame and concrete actions are not spelled out’ (2008: 302).  Finally, Grabbe argues that the ENP ‘needs to give… clear conditions and benchmarks to measure progress, rather than vague promises of ‘launching a dialogue’ on various issues’ (2004: 3).  The lack of detailed benchmarks surely removes incentives to comply – or at least makes non-compliance easier.  As Smith surmises: ‘Clear benchmarks these are not’ (2005: 765).

The problems stemming from the ambiguously-defined targets in the Action Plans are compounded by the fact that even when non-compliance is noted, there is frequently an absence of punitive consequences for the countries concerned.  This has encouraged the impression that there is an inequality in the application of ENP rules, again reducing states’ incentive to comply.  To give just one example, between 2007–2010, Tunisia (an ENP state which at the time was widely regarded as having avoided meaningful political reform), was expected to receive €300million via the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) – the ENPs’ main financial tool.  Meanwhile, Ukraine, with a population of over five times the size and greater evidence of rule compliance, was due just €494million (Barbé and Johansson-Nogués, 2008: 12-13).  Kelley identifies this problem as being part of a much longer-term trend, noting that for decades the EU ‘has not consistently imposed sanctions or rescinded contractual aid or trade provisions when countries behaved non-democratically’.  As a result, ‘ENP states may… discount the rhetoric in the strategy papers and the action plans’ (2006: 45).  Grabbe believes that explicit conditionality is vital for reform, stating that the EU needs to ‘make it clear’ to ENP states that ‘rewards will be denied or withdrawn if they lapse back into bad habits’ (2004: 5).  More frustrating for many Eastern European states is that non-ENP partners such as Russia are seen to receive better treatment without having to comply with the same EU requirements.  Grabbe recognises this as being detrimental to ENP effectiveness, urging that: ‘The large member-states need to stop giving special concessions to Russia – such as market economy status and the prospect of visa-free travel – if they create double-standards’ (2004: 5).

As well as the punishments for non-compliance not being tough enough, several commentators suggest that the rewards for rule adoption are likewise insufficient.  To quote Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission (1999-2004), in the absence of accession potential ‘where’s the beef?’ (Prodi, 2002).  Paraphrasing Kelley (2006), the ENP’s incentives might be said to include: 1) the possibility of moving beyond co-operation to a significant degree of integration, including a stake in the EU’s internal market; 2) an upgrade in the scope and intensity of political co-operation; 3) the opening of economies and reduction of trade barriers; 4) increased financial support from the EU; 5) participation in Community programmes promoting cultural, educational, environmental, technical and scientific links; 6) support for legislative changes required to meet EU norms and standards; and 7) deepening trade and economic relations.  Finally, Kelley also acknowledges that through their progress reports, the EU can influence the level of investment offered to ENP states by non-EU sources such as the International Monetary Fund (2006: 38).

Many ENP countries are reported to have had high expectations about these benefits (perhaps raised by Prodi’s hope that they would be ‘sharing everything with the Union but institutions’), which have not been fulfilled.  Smith starts by noting the shear opacity of the incentives in the APs, and their lack of conditionality, commenting that: ‘the benefits on offer from the ENP are only vaguely summarized at the start of the action plans, and they are not directly connected to fulfilment of the huge number of objectives or even the most important priorities.  It is hard to see how these action plans provide a ‘real incentive for reform’’ (2005: 764).  Grabbe puts it plainly, saying ‘The incentives contained in the Commission’s document are too weak to coax neighbours to move towards market economies and fully democratic politics.  Aid and trade concessions… are simply not enough to sway governments, and hence for the Union to exert leverage on them (2004: 3).  Citing a specific example, Barbé and Johansson-Nogués record how, following the so-called colour revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine ‘these countries assumed that they would be among the first on the list for visa facilitation, given their democratization processes.  However, disappointment on this point soon set in as it became evident during the consultation on ENP action plans… perhaps 95 per cent of… [Ukraine’s] citizens are effectively excluded’ (2008: 9).  Commenting on the promised access to EU markets, Gawrich et al. point out a major flaw in that ‘Ukraine’s major trade items, such as heavy industry and agricultural products… belong to the EU’s most protected ‘sensitive’ sectors and will hardly be included in the agreements’.  They add that: ‘many Ukrainian products still fail to meet European standards and, therefore, are barred from the EU markets by non-tariff barriers’ (2010: 1222).  In short, the actual (rather than stated) incentives offered by the ENP are neither sufficiently beneficial to partner countries, nor adequately conditional on their behaviour, to motivate reform.

Ineffectiveness may likewise be attributed to the lack of uniformity in the ENP rules themselves.  Belchev and Nicolaides note that ‘The language of Article 7a TEU seems to conceive of a single type of special relationship, but the truth is that the ENP brings together a great variety of countries and sub-regions and therefore pursues a systematic policy of differentiation deemed better equipped to match local needs and aspirations’ (2010: 481).  The authors question whether it is it possible to follow this policy of differentiation whilst encouraging homogeneity in the common application of EU rules.  Whilst intended to be helpful in driving change by using a targeted approach (‘Change… is seen to be more likely to come about by the use of EU leverage on its neighbours separately rather than in multilateral discussions’ (Smith, 2005: 762-763)) the ENP lacks the advantage of the Copenhagen Criteria where there was genuine rivalry between candidate states to be in the first wave to accede.  As Vachudova (2005) argues, this competition became a matter of national pride, thereby promoting domestic reform in countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic.  Such competition is absent when each state is running a different race.

The final major factor within the ENP contributing to its ineffectiveness is the asymmetry of interests between the EU and the partner states.  As one writer puts it:

‘The Union frequently argues that countries should undertake reforms and co-operate with its policies because that will help them to achieve goals like becoming full market economies and combating terrorism. But these are EU priorities, and are much less interesting to the neighbours’ governments.  If the EU wants to persuade its neighbours to co-operate, it needs to give them much more help with the areas they really care about, not just its own concerns’ (Grabbe, 2004: 6).

Belchev and Nicolaides agree, noting that ‘Georgian officials and analysts regret that the country’s Action Plan fails to address, in concrete terms, issues related to the recently ‘unfrozen’ conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia’ (2010: 484).  Ukraine is likewise interested in resolving disputes with neighbouring countries such as Russia and Romania, whereas the EU aims to secure its own borders to prevent illegal migration and trade.  In short, the ENP fails to map on to the specific concerns of some partner states.  Not only this but the direction of effort appears to be in one direction as ‘[ENP] Partners perceive that they stand to gain less than they put in by helping the Union out with managing border flows’ (Barbé and Johansson-Nogués, 2008: 11).  The same authors note that according to the original strategy, the ENP was intended to ‘reinforce stability and security and contribute to efforts at conflict resolution’ and to strengthen ‘the EU’s contribution to promoting the settlement of regional conflicts’.  However, evidence shows that conflict resolution has largely fallen by the wayside and thus there are ‘few tangible improvements over pre-ENP days’ (2008: 15).  As Smith reflects, the Action Plans ‘reflect a rather ample dose of EU self-interest’ (2005: 765).

External Factors Affecting ENP Effectiveness

A different perspective is offered by those who identify factors external to the ENP which may contribute to low levels of reform in partner states, and therefore the programme’s ineffectiveness.  Below, three major streams within such thinking will be presented, including: 1) the lower starting points of ENP states compared with most 2004 accession countries (in terms human rights, democracy, and GDP), 2) competition from other actors in exerting influence over ENP states, and 3) a lack of domestic appetite for reforms, especially in policy areas which encroach on areas of national sovereignty.

Kelley notes that whenever unfavourable contrasts are made between the level of reform in ENP states compared with their 2004 accession counterparts ‘an important difference to consider is the lower starting points for the ENP countries’ in terms of human rights, democracy, and GDP (2006: 41).  She begins by noting that ‘human rights conditions are worse in the ENP countries now than they were in the candidate countries in 1993’ (2006: 43).  Declaring that their level of democratic development is ‘worlds apart’, she turns to Vachudova (2005), who lays great emphasis on the idea that domestic competition between competing political parties was a vital prerequisite of success in bringing about democratic reform in candidate countries.  Vachudova finds that ‘while the average polity/democracy score for the candidate states in 1993 was 8.36, the 2003 average score for the ENP countries is –1.00 and the standard deviation is large’ (quoted in Kelley, 2006: 43-44).  This lack of established democratic traditions, political infrastructure and finance must undoubtedly contribute to the slow implementation of ENP rules.

It should also be acknowledged that the EU is not a lone actor, exerting influence over partner countries in a political vacuum.  Rather, it competes with other international actors which may have their own carrots for encouragement and sticks for enforcement.  The most relevant example of an external competitor in former Soviet states is, of course, Russia.  Grabbe suggests that ‘Russia is now much more likely to object to the EU increasing its influence in former Soviet countries than it was in the 1990s’ (2004: 1).  Sherr expands this point, highlighting the level of Russian influence over Ukraine where deals on gas transit and security have had substantial impacts on many other industry areas, such as ‘Steel, chemical, shipbuilding, aviation and nuclear enterprises’ (2010: 10).  Russia’s key tool of leverage is the sheer financial clout it wields over Ukraine in comparison with the EU.  Over a 10 year period, the gas supply agreement of 21 April 2010 alone ‘will save Ukraine $40 billion which dwarfs the… once mooted $3.8 billion from the EU for modernizing the Gas Transit System’ (Sherr, 2010: 7).  Finally, Russian influence over Ukraine has not just occurred at an elite level affecting political leaders.  Recent studies have shown that many Ukrainians blame the West for many of the country’s ills.  ‘According to a poll conducted by Russia’s Levada Centre and the Ukrainian institute KMIS in January 2010, 63% support joining the Russia-Belarus Union State, as opposed to 53% supporting EU accession’ (Sherr, 2010: 4).  Russia’s ability to offer incentives – both positive and negative – for cooperation (which in some cases may be more compelling than those offered by the EU), inevitably dilutes the ENP’s ability to drive reform on its own terms.  The EU has not helped in this situation by treating Russia as a more important strategic partner than the ENP states themselves, leading to sense of ‘disempowerment’ in Eastern European countries.  In the view of states which are part of both the EU’s and Russia’s ‘‘near abroad’, grand bargains between Brussels and Moscow over energy flows and security threaten their efforts to seek their fortunes westwards’ (Belchev and Nicolaides, 2010: 483).

Finally, just as the EU must compete for influence with other international actors, its ability to effect change in partner countries also depends to a significant extent on domestic support for the reform agenda.  Gawrich et al. take up this point, claiming that ‘Neighbourhood Europeanization’ (i.e. adoption by ENP states of EU values and norms) ‘is the result of both the external influence by the EU and internal support, i.e., positive local perception of the external influence by domestic actors’ (2010: 1216).   Vachudova (2005) records how the EU invested considerable energy in engaging with opposition parties in many candidate states during the accession process.  The ENP tries to emulate this by supporting the development of Civil society in partner countries, yet Sherr laments that in Ukraine the ENP’s ‘opaque co-operation strategy, limited financial support, narrowly focused linkages and mixed local perception… all together, imply that pro-EU forces are losing more and more domestic support’ (2010: 1218).  Schimmelfennig (2005), meanwhile, looks at the problem of requiring local elites to implement ENP measures, when they have a vested interest in preserving the status quo.  Smith agrees, acknowledging that ‘pressing governments to implement democratic reforms is extremely difficult if those same governments view such reforms as threatening their own hold on power’ (2005: 765).  Sasse attributes the problem to the sheer complexity – and therefore vagueness – of the reform process, arguing that ‘Rather than presenting the ENP as a case of weak incentives and high adoption costs, it should be thought of as being vaguely defined on the side of the incentives as well as the adoption costs’ (2008: 303).

Evidence of ENP Effectiveness

Having identified both internal and external reasons which help explain its apparent ineffectiveness, it should also be recognised that the ENP has not been entirely without success.  For instance, several commentators suggest that the programme has proven to be effective within specific policy areas – if not more generally.  Freyburg et al. argue that by encouraging partner countries to comply with EU practices in specific areas of administration, modest democratic norms can be encouraged, in what they call the ‘governance’ model of democracy promotion (2009: 918).  Focusing on three policy areas: environment (water management), competition (state aid), and migration policy (asylum), they find that ‘the EU is capable of inducing neighbouring countries to adopt policy-specific democratic governance provisions in the absence of accession conditionality’ (2009: 918).  In other words, by implementing certain measures, countries cannot help having to adopt policies which make modest steps in the direction of more democratic procedures.  Freyburg et al. find that the level of compliance and rule adoption in a policy area depends on a variety of factors such as whether the EU has strong institutions in that area to monitor and enforce compliance ‘at a transnational level rather than purely by a domestic agency’ (2009: 928).  Yet even though the rules may be adopted, the authors insert the caveat that ‘the application of legislation has been almost universally absent or weak’ (2009: 928).

Following a similar line of thought, in their aptly-titled article, ‘The EU as a Modest ‘Force for Good’ Belchev and Nicolaides (2010) find that the ENP is successful in improving administrative practice but less so at changing political systems or societies at large.  Meanwhile, looking specifically at Ukraine, Gawrich et al. (2010) identify improvements in security and border control, but not in democratisation.  The fact that all these authors have to focus on such a micro level to show evidence of ENP success (and then only given the right incentives in each domain) seems only to add further weight to the view that the ENP has been more ineffective than not.


Speaking in 2002, Romano Prodi was prescient when he said that: ‘The goal of accession is certainly the most powerful stimulus for reform we can think of. But why should a less ambitious goal not have some effect?’ (Prodi, 2002), thereby acknowledging that the level of reform produced by the ENP was not going to be the same as that in former candidate countries.  Yet it is clear that even judging by its own stated aims, the ENP has at best been only partially effective.  This article has specifically challenged the notion that it is sensible to compare the level of reform brought about in ENP states against that of the 2004 accession countries, or to regard it as a fault of the ENP that it does not offer a membership perspective.  The ENP has never been about offering membership, and therefore should not be judged as though it were.  Grabbe rightly acknowledges that the ENP cannot offer a membership perspective, but must instead focus on improving the other incentives it can offer to partner countries, whilst also administering ‘tough love’ (2004: 4-5).  Sasse agrees that ‘As the endpoint of the ENP is uncertain, there is an even greater need to specify priorities, a means to implement them, and target deadlines’ (2008: 302).

This article has argued that there are failings within the ENP and other external factors which contribute to its ineffectiveness.  Whilst the EU may have limited ability to control the external factors, the implication is that ENP effectiveness could be improved by addressing its internal deficiencies.  This might involve setting more explicit targets in the Action Plans; administering and withdrawing benefits in accordance with states’ actual progress (i.e. creating genuine conditionality to motivate desirable behaviours); applying rules fairly; creating competition between states; and addressing issues which are meaningful and important to the ENP states themselves.  These are criticisms which can fairly be addressed at the ENP, and which if resolved may lead to greater effectiveness.  It is therefore not the case that the European Neighbourhood Policy has been ineffective because it does not offer a realistic possibility of EU membership to states of the former Soviet Union.  This was never its purpose.  Instead, by improving the incentives it may actually apply, it could augment the benefits it brings both to ENP states and the EU itself.  As Romano Prodi once said: ‘Accession is not the only game in town’ (2002).


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