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When the “more and more” becomes a “little more” that's it!

(BRUSSELS2, exclusive) The European Union solemnly promised this in the aftermath of the Arab revolutions. Both the “South” and “East” neighborhood countries will now be treated differently. The one who does “more” to move forward on the democratic path, encourage human rights… would be treated “better” than the others. There would therefore no longer be an envelope set in a somewhat arbitrary manner. But everyone would thus be encouraged, encouraged on the path to change. This strategy of “more and more”, included in the Commission proposals put on the table of the European Parliament, first and foremost the instrument of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENPI * for those in the know), is on the verge of collapse.

In a reversal of the situation – of which only MEPs have the secret – this “more and more” could indeed become “a little more, that’s all”. The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee meets on Monday with a proposed amendment from the rapporteur, the Slovakian Eduard Kukan (former Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1998 to 2006). An amendment that went completely unnoticed and barely discussed by political groups. The main shadow rapporteurs almost all accepted this amendment, except the Greens and the Liberal Democrats.

A return to the situation quo ante

Under the guise of clarifying a few terms and moving a few words, we are in fact placing the “democratic” bar much lower. The differentiated incentive linked to the criteria for progress in reforms, in particular the deepening of democratic construction, thus gives way to only the classic criteria of absorption and to priorities “defined by mutual agreement”. The democratic incentive is referred to “additional” support. Just a little extra...

In a way, we return to the situation quo ante. European aid – although set under the Instrument for Democracy – will not be evaluated and conditioned on democratic progress but solely on technical (absorption) or programmatic (priorities) criteria. Incidentally, this could prevent too much redeployment of the European Union's financial envelope towards the “South”. Fear expressed by several MEPs from Eastern Europe.

Here is the text presented, and amended (in green the key passages)

  • La Commission proposal : “Union support provided under this Regulation to each partner country shall be differentiated in form and amounts according to the partner country's commitment to reforms and its progress in implementing these reforms. Such differentiation shall reflect the level of ambition of the country's partnership with the Union, its progress in building deep and sustainable democracy, its progress in implementing agreed reform objectives, the country's needs and capacities, and the potential impact of Union support.”
  • Rapporteur Kukan's proposal and several other EP rapporteurs: “Union support provided to each partner country under Article 6(1) (a) of this Regulation shall be incentive-based and differentiated in form and amounts according to the needs and the absorption capacities of the partner country concerned and the potential impact of the Union support. Such differentiation shall be in line with the principle of mutual accountability and shall reflect the level of ambition of the country to develop its partnership with the Union and to achieve commonly agreed reform objectives. This support will be reflected in the multi-annual programming documents specified in Article 7.
  • An oral amendment should be discussed, specifying additional support: “Enhanced support in form and amounts according to ´more for more´ principle will be made available to the partner country committed to and demonstrating progress in:
    – undertaking significant reforms aimed at building or consolidating democracy;
    – undertaking significant political, economic and social reforms and implementing agreed reform objectives

* European Neighborhood Policy Instrument

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).