Documents considered by the Committee on 5 April 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

9   Partnership with the Southern Mediterranean



COM(11) 200

Commission Communication: A Partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean

Legal base
Document originated8 March 2011
Deposited in Parliament14 March 2011
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationEM of 29 March 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see (29704) 9865/08: HC 428-x (2010-11), chapter 16 (8 December 2010); HC 19-xvii (2008-09), chapter 7 (14 October 2009); HC 19-xv (2008-09), chapter 1 (29 April 2009); HC 16-xxix (2007-08), chapter 6 (10 September 2008) and HC 16-xxiv (2007-08), chapter 5 (18 June 2008); also see (29029) —: HC 16-i (2007-08), chapter 2 (7 November 2007)
Discussed in Council14 March 2011 European Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


9.1  On 4 February 2011, the European Council met to discuss developments in Tunisia and Egypt. In its subsequent declaration, the EU said that was determined to lend its full support to the transition processes towards democratic governance, pluralism, improved opportunities for economic prosperity and social inclusion, and strengthened regional stability; and committed to a new partnership involving more effective support in the future to those countries pursuing political and economic reforms including through the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Union for the Mediterranean.

9.2  In this context, the European Council invited the High Representative within the framework of this partnership to develop a package of measures aimed at lending European Union support to the transition and transformation processes (strengthening democratic institutions, promoting democratic governance and social justice, and assisting the preparation and conduct of free and fair elections); and to link the European Neighbourhood Policy and Union for the Mediterranean more to these objectives.[30]

The Commission and High Representative Joint Communication

9.3  The Communication recalls the European Union's "proud tradition of supporting countries in transition from autocratic regimes to democracy" and, while "respecting what are primarily internal transformation processes", offers the expertise of governments, the European Commission, the European Parliament, local and regional authorities, political parties, foundations, trade unions and civil society organizations. Based on "a shared interest in a democratic, stable, prosperous and peaceful Southern Mediterranean", the Commission/HR propose "a qualitative step forward in the relations between the EU and its Southern neighbours…[which] should be rooted unambiguously in a joint commitment to common values…[and] expressed in recent weeks can only be addressed through faster and more ambitious political and economic reforms." On this basis, the Commission/HR say that the EU is ready to support all its Southern neighbours who are able and willing to embark on such reforms through a "Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity". The Partnership must be based on commitments to and concrete progress on democracy, human rights, social justice, good governance and the rule of law. The approach must be differentiated, acknowledging the fact that, despite some commonalities, no two countries in the region are the same.

9.4  The Commission/HR set out to explain what the EU has done to address the short-term consequences of recent events in North Africa and spell out their approach to the longer term process of "turning into reality the tremendous hopes that have been voiced in the region… by listening, not only to requests for support from partner governments, but also to demands expressed by civil society." With a radically changing political landscape, the Southern Mediterranean requires a change in the EU's approach — the underlying themes of differentiation, conditionality and partnership being part of the ongoing review of the European Neighbourhood Policy[31] on which the Commission/HR will present a joint Communication in April.

9.5  The immediate response includes humanitarian aid of €30 million; facilitating consular cooperation and evacuation; Frontex joint operations; drawing on the €25 million EU External Borders Fund and European Refugee Fund; High Representative/Vice President (HR/VP) visits to Tunisia and Egypt and international co-ordination meeting in Brussels; and support for democratic transition.

9.6  Looking ahead, the Communication sets out the three elements on which the Partnership would be based:

  • democratic transformation and institution-building, with a particular focus on fundamental freedoms, constitutional reforms, reform of the judiciary and the fight against corruption;
  • a strong partnership with the people, with specific emphasis on support to civil society and on enhanced opportunities for exchanges and people-to-people contacts with a particular focus on the young; and
  • sustainable and inclusive growth and economic development, especially support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), vocational and educational training, improving health and education systems and development of the poorer regions

9.7  The detail of these elements includes an incentive-based approach based on greater differentiation —"more for more" — in which those that go "further and faster" in their reforms would receive greater support. A commitment to adequately monitored, free and fair elections would be the entry qualification. Progress in human rights and governance would have minimum benchmarks against which performance would be assessed. Those who do not follow agreed reform plans would have their support reallocated. The Partnership should be underpinned by enhanced political dialogue, with a strong focus on human rights and political accountability. Partner countries carrying out the necessary reforms can expect to resume negotiations on Association Agreements with the aim of achieving "advanced status", viz., significantly strengthened political dialogue, increased links between the partner country and EU institutions, deeper engagement on mobility and improved market access to the EU.

9.8  A "Civil Society Neighbourhood Facility," which would develop the advocacy capacity of civil society organisations and increase their ability to monitor reform, would be created and the EU would continue its work on supporting capacity building to strengthen government institutions. Capacity building would also be employed to strengthen borders and migration, asylum and law-enforcement co-operation to improve security.

9.9   "Mobility Partnerships" to manage movement of persons between the EU and third countries would include visa facilitation and readmission agreements, and, eventually, steps towards visa liberalisation.

9.10  The promotion of economic development, including support for SMEs, an increase in the European Investment Bank's (EIB) general lending envelope by €1 billion, extending the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's (EBRD) operations to the region, and allowing "reflows" — the re-investment of previous financing operations to support the private sector — are all outlined.

9.11  The proposal also addresses longer term financing issues and refocusing existing programmes. Noting that €4 billion is currently available to the region under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), the Communication states that all ENPI programmes for the region will be screened and possibly re-focused to address the Partnership's three priorities. It also details the need to leverage loans via IFIs, and encourages Member States to contribute to the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF), which provides grant support.

9.12  The Partnership would support the development of trade and investment through the conclusion of a single, regional, Convention on pan-Euro-Mediterranean preferential rules of origin. It would include the conclusion of EU trade liberalisation agreements and the negotiation of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas, building on the current Association Agreements.

9.13  Sectoral Co-operation would include the establishment of an EU-South Mediterranean Energy Community with the long-term aim of extending the Energy Community Treaty; launching an Agricultural/rural development support programme; increasing participation in education programmes; and developing access to the Internet and other communication technologies.

The Government's view

9.14   In his Explanatory Memorandum of 29 March 2011, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) describes the proposed changes as "broadly in line with UK thinking and the views I expressed to the European Commission in response to their review of the ENP."

9.15  The Minister continues as follows:

"We share their thinking on the need for greater differentiation between countries. We have stressed that strict conditionality is essential; that clear and measurable conditions must underpin the EU's relationship with countries in the region, and that those countries who meet agreed reforms should continue to receive EU funding, whereas those that fail to reform should have funding withheld. We have stressed the need for reforms in human rights and governance to be given greatest priority."

9.16  The Minister says that he is not opposed to the principle of "Advanced Status", though he thinks the EU should clarify what this status entails, including what benefits beneficiary countries might expect as a result.

9.17  The Minister agrees with the view that civil society involvement is important for the development of good governance and monitoring of human rights and "therefore views positively the proposal to create structures which would enable civil society to monitor reforms."

9.18  The Minister goes on to note that, as the UK does not participate in the EU common visa policy, "as it builds on an area of the Schengen acquis which the UK has chosen not to opt-in to", the EU visa facilitation and liberalisation agreement proposals that the Communication describes do not apply to the UK.

9.19  With regards to financing, the Minister says that he has for some time expressed the view that this should be focussed on the delivery of political and economic reform, and accordingly welcomes the statement that current programmes will be assessed to ensure they support priority reforms:

"We believe that priority reforms can be supported by the reallocation of existing funding, rather than an increase in budget, so we are content that the Communication states that assistance will come from the current EU budget."

9.20  The Minister then says that he is opposed to the proposal of a general increase in the European Investment Bank's (EIB) mandate, commenting as follows:

"The Chancellor is prepared to support the proposed additional lending envelope of €1 billion, but subject to the conditionality that the €1 billion increase is a one-off, temporary increase, and that it is a stand-alone increase and not part of a larger increase to general EIB lending. Our policy on 'reflows' — recycling funding from one year to the next — is guided by our commitment to the principle of budget discipline that is enforced by the return of repayments to Member States. Whilst we appreciate that the introduction of reflows would facilitate more flexible use of funds, this should not be at the expense of budget discipline. We favour a return of repayments to Member States to ensure a balanced EU budget at the end of the financial year."

9.21  With regard to the trade components of the proposal, the Minister says:

"We share the view that development of sustainable trade is key to the general reinvigoration of economies in the region, and that the removal of barriers to trade with the EU, and the opening of EU markets, would support this. The opening of markets is one of the greatest incentives to reform we are able to offer the region. However, we are aware of the sensitivities of some, particularly southern, Member States to the opening of certain sectors — in particular agriculture — and are realistic about the difficulty of securing the agreement of all Member States to this."

9.22  On the sectoral element, the Minister then says:

"We support the development of new routes and sources of supply of energy to the EU, including the Southern Corridor, and, where appropriate, encourage adoption of the EU's energy market rules by near neighbours and major energy producers, for example by extending the Energy Community Treaty to them and by extending and consolidating the Energy Charter Treaty. We therefore welcome in principle the proposal to establish an EU-South Mediterranean Energy Community and will follow its development."

9.23  Finally, and looking ahead, the Minster says that, as "an expression of the views of the Commission" there is no timetable for its implementation, and that the individual proposals it covers "will be dealt with independently of the Communication and according to their nature."

9.24  On 14 March 2011, the European Council held an extraordinary session to discuss developments in Libya and the Southern neighbourhood region and set the political direction and priorities for future EU policy and action. The Council noted that progress and democracy needed to go hand in hand, and all countries in the region needed to undertake or accelerate political and economic reforms; and said that the EU would support all steps towards democratic transformation, political systems that allow for peaceful change, growth and prosperity, and a more proportionate distribution of the benefits of economic performance. It endorsed the notion that progress by partners towards transformation would drive EU support. Developing strong democratic institutions would be one of the key objectives. On a more general level, the Council noted that existing partnership and assistance programmes will be rapidly reviewed, in close cooperation with partners in the region, in order to better target present needs. In this context, the Council called on the Commission and the High Representative to give priority to country-focused and performance based approaches. Looking to the medium term, the European Council called for a new partnership with the region, in line with its declaration of 4 February 2011, broadly welcomed the joint communication and called on the Council to examine rapidly the proposals contained in the communication and in particular the conditions under which the EU's support to its partners could be enhanced.

9.25  In particular, the Council was asked:

  • to agree urgently pending proposals on pan-Euro-Mediterranean rules of origin (and the Commission was invited to present proposals on further means to enhance trade and foreign direct investment in the region in the short, medium and long term);
  • to consider rapidly the Commission's proposals on European Investment Bank reflows and look at further possibilities to increase the EIB's overall financial support capacity; and
  • to review the missions of the Union for the Mediterranean, with the objective of promoting democracy and fostering stability in the region and giving "a new push" to concrete measures and projects so as to strengthen democratic institutions, freedom of expression, including unhindered access to internet, reinforce civil societies, support the economy, reduce poverty and address social injustice.[32]


9.26   The Barcelona Process (a.k.a. the Euro-Med Process) was launched during the 1995 Spanish Presidency between the EU and its Mediterranean partners — Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey (Libya has observer status since 1999) — with the aim of building "a space of dialogue, peace, security and shared prosperity". At the outset, the Commission described this as "a turning point in Euro-Mediterranean relations". On examining the most recent Commission Communication on the Process in November 2007, the previous Committee concluded that, in reality, it had become impossible to judge the extent to which the Process was merely processing, rather than achieving concrete outcomes; and that, with approximately €4.7 billion committed in 2000-06 and a further €1.3 billion earmarked for 2007-10, it was time to examine the Process more closely, via a debate on the Communication in the European Standing Committee.[33] That debate took place on 22 January 2008.[34]

9.27  During that debate, there was some, perforce limited, discussion of President Sarkozy's idea of a "Union of the Mediterranean". The subsequent Communication (which the previous Committee considered on 18 June 2008)[35] set out the rationale for the Process and a vision for enhanced co-operation. The intention was to build on the existing process, but add a number of higher-profile projects to give added impetus and visibility. Funding arrangements were somewhat imprecise. The Commission noted that the EU and its Member States already provided significant funding in the Mediterranean region, [36] but that "to bring added value to existing arrangements, the 'Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean' should be designed to mobilise additional funding for the region, mainly through regional projects", and that "its added value will very much depend on its capacity to attract more financial resources for regional projects." The UMed process was finally launched in November 2008.

9.28  Two years on, when the Committee last considered the UMed, the Minister for Europe noted that the second UMed Summit (due to have been held in Barcelona on 21 November 2010) had been postponed, for a second time and sine die, because of the lack of progress on a resumption of direct talks in the Middle East Peace Process, and that a new date had not yet been set; and the Secretariat had yet to become fully operational or make substantial progress on developing and promoting any projects.

9.29  We outline these earlier endeavours to establish a productive partnership with the EU's southern neighbours not to pour cold water on the latest manifestation, but to illustrate how hard it will be to implement. It is customary in such circumstances to say that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Now, it is by no means clear what can be achieved, when the polity of so many of the southern neighbours is in a state of radical flux, and in circumstances very different from those facing the then Member States in central and eastern Europe in 1989. In present circumstances, it is by no means clear what form the entry qualification of a "commitment to adequately monitored, free and fair elections" would take, in societies with little or no parliamentary history or embryonic civil society (in contrast to the situation in Europe in 1989). Or whether, once the process was underway, the EU would really be willing to slow down or turn off funding in the face of backsliding.

9.30  Nevertheless, unpromising as the past and present context is, we can but hope for the best, since there is no good alternative to the essence of what is proposed. However, the Minister is surely right when he says priority reforms can be supported by the reallocation of existing funding, rather than any increase in budget.

9.31  We now clear the document.

Annex: Glossary of terms


These refer to contractual relationships between the European Union (EU) and a non-EU country. Association Agreements may promote the establishment/strengthening of regular dialogue and close relations on political and security matters; gradual liberalisation of trade in goods, services and capital; economic cooperation with a view to encouraging economic and social development and regional economic integration; social, cultural and human dialogue. The legal base for the conclusion of the association agreements is provided by Article 217 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Treaty on European Union (TEU) makes a specific reference to agreements with neighbouring countries in Article 8(2).

The concept of "advanced status" under the Association Agreements means a strengthening of political cooperation and new opportunities in economic and trade relations, progressive regulatory convergence as well as strengthened cooperation with certain European agencies and programmes.


A free trade agreement covering a wide array of trade-related issues ("comprehensive") and aiming at eliminating "behind the border" obstacles to trade through processes of regulatory approximation, thus partially opening/extending the EU internal market to the other party. It is currently offered only to ENP countries.


Proposed by the Commission in 2003-2004 as a framework policy through which an enlarged EU could strengthen and deepen relations with its 16 closest neighbours (Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine) with a view to counteracting risks of marginalisation for the neighbouring countries which had not participated in the historic 2004 enlargement and therefore ensuring the strengthening of a shared area of prosperity, stability and security. A review of the ENP is scheduled for adoption in April 2011.


These documents are negotiated with and tailor-made for each country, based on the country's needs and capacities, as well as their and the EU's interests. They jointly define an agenda of political and economic reforms by means of short and medium-term (3-5 years) priorities. They cover political dialogue and reform, economic and social cooperation and development, trade-related issues and market and regulatory reform, cooperation in justice and home affairs, sectors (such as transport, energy, information society, environment, research and development) and a human dimension (people-to-people contacts, civil society, education, public health). The incentives on offer, in return for progress on relevant reforms, are greater integration into European programmes and networks, increased assistance and enhanced market access.


Since 2007 the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) is the legal base for assistance to ENP countries and Russia — supporting the agreed priorities in the ENP Action Plans, as well as the Strategic Partnership with Russia, replacing previous instruments for the Eastern Neighbours and Russia and for the Mediterranean Partners respectively.


Framework policy launched in 1995 by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the then 15 EU members and 14 Mediterranean partners as the base for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership which has evolved into the Union for the Mediterranean. The partnership was organised into three main dimensions: political and security dialogue; economic and financial partnership; social, cultural and human partnership. With the introduction of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2004, the Barcelona Process essentially became the multilateral forum of dialogue and cooperation between the EU and its Mediterranean partners while complementary bilateral relations are managed mainly under the ENP and through Association Agreements signed with each partner country.


This facility brings together EIB loans guaranteed by the EU budget and other services provided by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to assist the economic development and the integration of the Mediterranean partner countries. Activities are focused on two priority areas: support for the private sector and creating an investment-friendly environment.


The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the European Union's financing institution. Its shareholders are the 27 Member States of the Union, which have jointly subscribed its capital. The EIB's role is to provide long-term finance in support of investment projects. Inside the European Union the EIB supports the EU's policy objectives in the following areas: small and medium-sized enterprises; cohesion and convergence; the fight against climate change; environmental protection and sustainable communities; sustainable, competitive and secure energy; the knowledge economy; trans-European networks. Outside the EU, the EIB is active in over 150 countries to implement the financial pillar of EU external cooperation and development policies (private sector development, infrastructure development, security of energy supply, and environmental sustainability).


established in 1991 in response to major changes in the political and economic climate in central and eastern Europe, the ERBD is an international financial institution that supports projects from central Europe to central Asia by investing primarily in private sector clients whose needs cannot be fully met by the market, with a view to fostering transition towards open and democratic market economies. Its area of operations has been recently extended to Turkey.


Is the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union. Based in Warsaw, it is a specialised and independent body tasked to coordinate the operational cooperation between Member States in the field of border security.


The term generally refers to the five North African countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania, plus the disputed territory of Western Sahara — although it is most commonly used for Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.


This refers to the region of countries to the east of Egypt and north of the Arabian Peninsula (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the occupied Palestinian territory), although it is commonly used to include Egypt as well.[37]

30   See for the full text of the Declaration. Back

31   The Communication includes a useful glossary of terms, which explain the nature of the European Neighbourhood Policy and other central elements, and which is reproduced at the Annex to this chapter of our Report. Back

32   The full declaration is available at Back

33   See headnote: (29029) -: HC 16-i (2007-08), chapter 2 (7 November 2007). Back

34   See Stg Co Deb cols 3-18, 22 January 2008: Back

35   See headnote: HC 16-xxiv (2007-08), chapter 5 (18 June 2008). Back

36   See HC 16-xxix (2007-08), chapter 6 (10 September 2008), Annex 1. Back

37   See headnote: see (29704) 9865/08: HC 428-x (2010-11), chapter 16 (8 December 2010), and earlier Reports cited therein. Back

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