by Evita Mouawad
The first day of the “Neighbours of the EU’s Neighbours” conference, hosted by the Department of EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies at the College of Europe in Bruges, focused on rising geopolitical dimensions and challenges in regions adjacent to the European neighbourhood, mainly in the Sahara and Horn of Africa, as well as Western and Central Asia.
The notion of “neighbours of the neighbours” was introduced by the European Commission in 2006 in a Communication on strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) stating: “We must also look beyond the Union’s immediate neighbourhood, to work with the ‘neighbours of our neighbours’.” In light of recent changes in the Middle East and the growing instability in the Sahel, one of the key questions addressed on 15 November 2012 was how the EU can create bridges between the different policy frameworks and models of co-operation, in order to elaborate new comprehensive strategies that would facilitate the stabilisation and development of the broader neighbourhood.
In his keynote address, David O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer of the European External Action Service, stated that despite the ENP’s success so far, some challenges are still arising while addressing the wider neighbourhood area, including the difficulty to define which countries could be enlisted as Neighbours of the Neighbours (NoN). The Middle East, Central Asia, as well as the Sahara and Horn of Africa are of strategic interest to the EU, but these regions are also marred with frozen conflicts, state failure, terrorism and organised crime, which in turn make it very difficult to build lasting partnerships. O’Sullivan also stressed on the importance of trading the EU’s one-size-fits-all strategy for a more tailor-made approach. In other words, the EU can no longer impose reform or values from the outside, which is why the revamped ENP strategy consists of more differentiation, local ownership, and partnership with civil society.
Read the full Conference Review on the ISIS Europe website.
 COM(2006)726, p. 11