Wednesday

23rd Aug 2017

EU neighbours: instability, corruption, authoritarianism

  • The EU spent €2.6bn on the neighbourhood states last year (Photo: Globovision)

Most countries round the EU’s southern and eastern rim are seeing an increase of instability, authoritarianism, and corruption, according to European Commission reports published on Thursday (27 March).

The commissioner in charge of trying to make things better, Stefan Fuele, said in a statement that “popular aspirations for a better life and for enjoying basic human rights and fundamental freedoms remain strong”.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He noted the EU spent €2.6 billion on "neighbourhood policy" states last year, and has earmarked €15.4 billion for 2014 to 2020.

But he added that “reform cannot be imposed from outside”.

The situation is stable in Morocco, where Fuele’s top recommendation is to accelerate changes to the constitution.

But travelling east, problems begin with elections in Algeria on 17 April, where 77-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika aims to retain power in a country which has seen “no visible progress” on EU-demanded electoral reforms and where lack of respect for basic civil liberties "has not changed significantly".

Further east again, Libya is falling apart.

The commission report says “tribal and local skirmishes continue, politically instigated violence is a daily reality, and clashes between military brigades outside of the control of the state are a frequent occurrence.” The de facto secession of the Benghazi region has seen oil output drop from 1.5 million barrels a day to 250,000.

Lack of border control has also seen Libya become “the main transit country in the Mediterranean for economic migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers” to Europe.

The commission report does not say it, but the German government recently told its MPs things are so bad, the EU border control mission, Eubam Libya, has just one third of personnel in place and is thinking of moving to Malta.

Tunisia is a pocket of relative normality.

But Egypt is fast-turning into a basket case. The commission report glosses over the army’s coup d’etat and its killing of more than 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood protesters in 2013 as “politically a very challenging year.” But it documents the accompanying crackdown on civil society and media.

It also gives weight to Fuele’s remark that EU reforms “cannot be imposed from outside.”

The report noted that his colleague, foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, visited Cairo “several times”. But despite her visits, the crackdown continued. Egypt this week sentenced more than 500 Muslim Brotherhood prisoners to death. Ashton published a complaint.

Moving on to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, Fuele’s team said Israel’s unchecked settlement building, impunity for settler violence against Palestinians, detentions of Palestinians, and its almost total isolation of Gaza mean “tension has increased.”

Israel’s two neighbours - Jordan and Lebanon - are struggling to cope with a “steady and continuous wave of refugees from Syria.”

There are 584,600 UN-registered refugees in Jordan (media say 1.2 million in total), which is beginning to run out of water, and 974,400 in Lebanon, which is seeing increased sectarian violence.

The EU also puts a price on the cost of the Syrian civil war.

In the latest data available, its overall exports dropped by 52 percent in 2012 and its EU exports dropped by 91 percent.

Mainland Europe

Hopping to mainland Europe, the commission praised Georgia for its pro-EU reforms, but warned it to “ensure that criminal prosecutions are conducted in a transparent and impartial manner, [and] free of political motivation.”

The EU is aiming to sign an association pact with Georgia in June despite the fact it is partitioned by Russia.

But someone in Georgia is happy to play into Russia’s hands: The day after the EU announced the June date, Georgia summoned its former president, Mikheil Saakashvili, to answer prosecutors’ questions on a string of criminal cases.

He skipped the meeting, due on 27 March, saying EU friends had told him not to risk jail and, by extension, harming EU-Georgia ties.

The reports also take Armenia (rampant corruption) and Azerbaijan (authoritarianism) to task.

Last year, Armenia binned its EU association hopes due to Russian threats over its frozen conflict with Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan by itself binned an EU “strategic” agreement by rejecting EU requests to include a promise on human rights.

For anyone hoping that more than 20 years of EU and US diplomacy on Nagorno-Karabakh has helped, the EU report added: “An upsurge of violence along the line of contact was nevertheless witnessed early 2014.”

Elsewhere, the EU’s top demand for Moldova, also partitioned by Russia but hoping to sign an EU pact in June, was to “intensify the fight against corruption at all levels.”

With speculation mounting that Russia will invade Moldova’s breakaway Transniestria region to encircle Ukraine, the EU report added: “Little development can be reported with regard to the Transnistrian conflict.”

The reports add nothing new on Ukraine.

They also note the situation in Belarus remains grim: “232 persons and 25 entities remain subject to EU sanctions, as not all political prisoners have been released, no released prisoner has been rehabilitated, and the respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles has not improved.”

Russia and Turkey are not covered by the neighbourhood policy.

But the Ukraine crisis has revealed a bottomless chasm between Moscow and Brussels, which is currently preparing for economic warfare against Russia in case of a full-scale Ukraine invasion.

The slide toward autocracy and instability in Turkey - the only country in the region with EU accession hopes - also continued on Thursday when PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan blocked YouTube in the run-up to local and presidential elections.

The ban comes a few days after he blocked Twitter and two weeks after two more people died in clashes between protesters and police.

EU to revise relations with turbulent neighbourhood

A decade after launching it, the EU is trying to bring new life to its Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which has been rendered largely irrelevant by developments in Ukraine and around the Mediterranean.

'Killer robots' are not about Terminator

A European signatory of an open letter about autonomous weapons says the imagery of fictional killer robots is distracting from a seriously dangerous issue.

News in Brief

  1. US will ask Nato allies to send more troops into Afghanistan
  2. Greece to be absent at event on Communism and Nazism
  3. Czechs want observer status in Eurogroup meetings
  4. Putin sends EU-blacklisted ambassador to US
  5. Austria has begun checks at Italian border
  6. Slovenian PM: Brexit talks will take longer than expected
  7. Merkel backs diesel while report warns of economic harm
  8. UK to publish new Brexit papers this week

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  4. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  6. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  7. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  8. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  10. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  11. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead