Election check: European Neighbourhood Policy

, by Konstantin Chopov

Election check: European Neighbourhood Policy
Cédric Puisney, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses...> , via Wikimedia Commons

The European Parliament will be elected from 6 to 9 June, but what do the party families stand for at the European level? 

Democracy, and the prevention of new dividing lines between the EU and neighbouring countries are all themes of the European Neighbourhood Policy. However, the conflict in Ukraine and the accession procedures for new member states such as Moldova, Georgia, and Albania have been the main issues in recent years. But what should the next five years of the European Neighbourhood Policy look like from the perspective of the European party families? 

In 2002, the then-Commission President Romano Prodi spoke out in favour of a wider Europe concept. The aim was to form a ring of friends around the EU, stretching from Morocco across the Black Sea to Russia. This idea laid the foundation for the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) initiated in 2004, which was to form the basis for a uniform policy concept towards the EU’s eastern and southern neighbours. 

To this day, the ENP serves as the overarching framework for European relations with the sixteen neighbouring states. Its official objective is to foster stability and security in the region through political association, economic development, and integration—all without any promise of accession.


The political implications of the conflict in Ukraine for the EU are dual in nature. On one hand, the realisation of the fact that Europe’s common security and stability are closely linked to the outcome of this conflict has significantly blurred the partisan divides within the EU. For instance, according to the 2023 opinion poll by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECR) a roughly the same proportion of the electorate who intended to vote for Polish right-wing Law and Justice and for Emmanuel Macron’s centrist El Marche believe that Ukraine needs to regain its territory by all means, even if longer and bloodier conflict is necessary. Moreover, according to the same poll, across 9 EU member states, 66% of respondents see Russia as either an adversary - a dramatic contrast with the 2021 ECR poll according to which less than 17% of respondents viewed Russia in such a way. On the other hand, the extent and the mere presence of this unity varies significantly across individual member-states. Moreover, as the conflict continues well beyond its 2-year anniversary, and its implications such as increased cost of living or influx of Ukrainian refugees are felt across Europe, in the long-run the partisan divides may widen significantly. Thus, while the liberal parties such as the EPP or the Greens advocate in favour of further aiding Ukraine not only financially but also militarily, in contrast Identity and Democracy (ID) calls for “pragmatism and adherence to reality”, what suggests its desire to balance moral and strategic imperatives in supporting Ukraine to mitigate significant socioeconomic costs of the prolonged conflict.

Israel and Palestine  

The conflict in Gaza is another contemporary issue contributing to increasing political divides in the EU. For instance, according to a YouGov survey conducted in November 2023 across Western Europe, while 64-80% of respondents believed that 7 October 2023 attacks on Israel were unjustified, over 55-73% supported an immediate ceasefire. Even though Ursula von der Leyen - the EPP Spitzkandidat was reportedly criticised by some EU leaders for frequently overstepping her foreign policy duties particularly when Israel and Palestine were concerned, her stance towards the conflict is reflective of contemporary popular sentiments within most of the EU. For instance, even though she acknowledged Israel’s right to defend itself, she simultaneously called for a ceasefire, promoting a two-state solution as a means to an end.  Similarly to EPP, Greens also argue in favour of the two-state solution, emphasising the entitlement of Palestinian people to “a home of their own” in their manifesto. The Lefts however not only propagate employing towards Israel a response of similar nature as was employed towards Russia after February 2022 embodied in imposition of sanctions on the Israeli government as a tool for bringing it towards a peaceful resolution of the conflict. But also demand subsequent investigations of Israeli actions in Gaza.  


The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in gradual abandonment of the principle of universalism that served as the principal driver of the expansion of European Neighbourhood for decades prior. Thus, while Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia - nations where Russia maintains significant military presence were granted their candidate statuses shortly after February 2022, only limited progress has been made when the accession of Western Balkans is concerned. This pattern illustrates the increasing importance of security imperatives rather than universalist ideas of economic interdependence, common institutions, and the ideological motion of United Europe in expansion of the European neighbourhood nowadays. However, when Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia will meet all the necessary criteria to join the EU is an entirely different question. While Ursula von der Leyen and the EPP have actively advocated for the EU enlargement. Thus, in its manifesto EPP still emphasises that “all candidate countries shall be bound by the same rules on the way to full membership.” Greens have taken a markedly similar stance, arguing that “a new push for enlargement is long overdue.” However, the right-wing Identity and Democracy has decided not to adopt a common stance on enlargement for its member parties due to willingness to preserve unity before the election. 


As the EU prepares for the upcoming elections, the European Neighbourhood Policy remains a significant point of debate. The continuing conflict in Ukraine, the war in Gaza, and the future of EU enlargement are key issues that will shape the direction of the ENP. The European party families have distinct perspectives, reflecting their broader political ideologies and responding to the changing geopolitical landscape. Liberal and conservative parties like the Greens and the EPP advocate for robust financial and military aid to Ukraine, while right-wing parties like Identity and Democracy call for a more pragmatic approach. The ongoing conflict in Gaza further complicates the EU’s foreign policy landscape, with differing views on how to achieve a balanced resolution. Enlargement remains a contentious issue, with security concerns increasingly influencing decisions over ideological integration.  The upcoming elections will determine how the EU navigates these complex issues, balancing internal unity with external responsibilities. Ultimately, the decisions made in the next five years will shape the EU’s relationships with its neighbours and its role as a global actor.

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