Daily news reminds us of the terrible crisis in the Mediterranean, with people fleeing their countries in any way possible with the aim of landing somewhere safer than what used to be home. The EU reaction, rumor has it, has been slow and plain insufficient according to the majority. Somehow, we still need the picture of a dead toddler carried by a Turkish official to remind us that things need to change, and that they need to change fast.
The migration crisis highlights not only the problematic nature of European asylum and refugee laws but also the bigger, confusing area that was and still is the European Neighborhood Policy. In the Southern Mediterranean, too many times since its creation, the ENP has been abstract and imprecise.
The European Neighborhood Policy was conceived in 2004 in order to create a ‘ring of friends’ around the EU that included both the Eastern and Southern neighbors. ENP was divided in the Eastern Partnership and the Southern Mediterranean, built upon the wide framework of political, economic and social cooperation that was first established in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership also known as the Barcelona Process, from 1995 onwards. Through a series of Action Plans, the EU negotiates with each country a number of political and economic reforms and channels of cooperation on the basis of individual cases, reflecting both the EU´s and that specific country´s needs and capacities. At this point, everything seems rational and coherent. The problem arises when one takes a closer look.
The reality of the Action Plans has been that more often than not, the documents have been broad and general. Although Action Plans are negotiated on individual cases, the ENP framework still seems to establish a common policy approach towards its neighbors that has clearly failed to address each country´s needs and priorities. The migration crisis deriving from the changing environment of the MENA region since 2011 is yet another example of the need for tailor-made policies for the various countries that the EU collaborates with in its neighborhood. At the moment, countries in the Mediterranean area have completely diverse situations and needs, and only by tackling each individually will the EU be able to establish truly successful cooperation with its neighbors.
As the 1989 Generation Initiative stated last June, “greater differentiation among different countries is necessary”, and the need to listen to our Southern neighbors and their priorities both on the topic of migration and other issues on an individual basis is now more important than ever. Only by doing so will the EU be able to establish efficient cooperation, address the challenges that the neighborhood faces today in terms of economy, security and migration and create a true ring of friends around the EU: A ring in which, as is usually expected, friends take care of each other´s children…
by Ester Juan Gimeno