To good neighbourliness!

The dilemma faced by the EU in its search for an effective policy with Lebanon

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), designed to form the political framework for relations to neighbouring countries since 2004, is confronted with the allegation of being ineffective. Thus, the European Union (EU) is compelled to define its role in Lebanon anew and needs to disperse tensions within the current European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP): Is the policy’s focal point to be shared values or stability? Is the focus of the ENP on active policy development or non-interference? Local perspectives on this discourse are gathered through a fieldwork in Lebanon which is conducted by 24 qualitative interviews with different actors who are concerned by the ENP. This empirical research can enrich and complement the EU’s review process of the ENP (2015) initiated by the EU Commission. The results of the paper are recommendation for further improvement of the ENP in general and particularly regarding the case of Lebanon.

The ENP has not always been able to offer adequate responses to these recent developments, nor to the changing aspirations of our partners. Therefore, the EU’s own interests have not been fully served either. (…) Given all this, there is now a clear need to review the assumptions on which the policy is based, as well as its scope, and how instruments should be used, including how different policy sectors can better contribute to cooperation, ensuring linkages between internal and external priorities.” Joint consultation paper of the European Commission (2015)[1]

The European Union (EU) is faced with major foreign-policy challenges at its Southern borders: war, instability, refugees and economic deadlock. In addition, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), designed to form the political framework for relations to neighbouring countries, is confronted with the allegation of being ineffective. For this reason, the new European Commission, headed by Jean-Claude Junker, initiated a fundamental revision of the ENP. The goal is to shape regional politics to fit each partner country individually and to redevelop the instrument itself in order to make it more effective, as described in the EU consultation paper (2015). The reasons for the difficult implementation of the ENP are complex and require a detailed analysis as well as the possible solutions. This analysis was conducted within the framework of an exploratory research project in Lebanon and the findings thereof are summarized below. The example of Lebanon demonstrates that the EU in its Southern Neighbourhood Policy is presently trapped between its normative requirements und the political interest in stability. This dilemma needs to be resolved by the EU and the ENP needs to be remodelled into a more effective political instrument. The analysis of various Lebanese perspectives on the ENP gathered through the means of qualitative interviews discloses which aspects need to be considered in the case of Lebanon in particular.

[1] EU Kommission (2015): Gemeinsames Konsultationspapier. Auf dem Weg zu einer neuen Europäischen Nachbarschaftspolitik. Brüssel, den 04.03.2015, 6 final, 2-3.


Written by Magdalena Ries

Translated from the German by Christine F. G. Kollmar


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Heinrich Boell Foundation - Middle East Office
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