2021. September 28., Tuesday

“Recent challenges of the European Neighbourhood Policy”

Conference and round table discussion organised in Szeged, in the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe

The Europe Direct Szeged, the European Public Law Organization (EPLO) and the International and Regional Studies Institute of the University of Szeged, Faculty of Law organised an online conference and round table discussion entitled “Recent challenges of the European Neighbourhood Policy”. The event was implemented on 23 April 2021 in the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe. The conference focused on the latest challenges faced by the European Union’s neighbourhood policy.


The speakers of the conference took part in the event in person, but because of the prevailing disease control measures, our guests could join the discussion online, through the Facebook page of the Europe Direct Szeged office.


Participants of the round table discussion included Prof. Dr. László TRÓCSÁNYI, Member of the European Parliament, Professor of the Faculty of Law of the University of Szeged, Prof. Dr. Erzsébet NAGYNÉ RÓZSA, Professor of the University of Public Service, Dr. Viktor MARSAI, Assistant Professor of the University of Public Service, Prof. Dr. László J. NAGY, Professor Emeritus of the University of Szeged, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Institute of History, Helga PRITZ, Head of Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Dr. Péter KRUZSLICZ, Assistant Professor of the University of Szeged, Faculty of Law, Director of the Francophone University Centre. The conference was moderated by Dr. Anikó SZALAI, Associate Professor of the University of Szeged, Faculty of Law, Head of the International and Regional Studies Institute.


In her opening speech Anikó SZALAI reminded us: if we mention the European Neighbourhood Policy in Szeged, we usually think of the Balkans, although this is far from the reality as the neighbourhood policy of the EU covers North Africa, the Middle East and the post-Soviet region. Countries covered by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) include Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Moldova, Armenia, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. Its main objective is economic integration and the development of mutual cooperation.


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László TRÓCSÁNYI underlined in his lecture: while examining the European Neighbourhood Policy we can separate two main phases – one between 1957 and 1990 and the one from 1990 to the present. The professor presented the evolution of the priorities and composition of the neighbourhood policy in the two phases. He explained that it was a basic interest of the European Union to be present in the eastern and the southern region with identical intensity and to always give the appropriate answers to social and economic problems that arise. Among others, this is one of the reasons why the neighbourhood policy is under constant review within the EU, we have to discuss new priorities all the time and often reconcile divergent interests, taking into account the desire of our southern neighbours that the EU should consider them as equal partners.


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The Professor stressed that the European Union must not play the role of a teacher vis-á-vis the states of the southern neighbourhood. The EU has to treat these states as adults as this is the only way Europe will be considered as a key player in the region in the long run.


Joining this train of thought, Erzsébet NAGYNÉ RÓZSA focused on the Near East in her lecture, but right at the beginning of her speech she stated that we had to separate the states of the Mediterranean and that of the Near East within the southern partnership. The professor presented the development of the institutional system of the southern partnership in her lecture. Among others, she went on to detail the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and the bilateral and multilateral strategies that play a major role in the neighbourhood policy of the European Union.


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The issue of migration is one of the most important arising problems that needs to be addressed. But the professor reminded us that the Arabic countries were not necessarily emitters concerning migration. Very often they are also only transit countries themselves, so problems have to be solved in regions or states where reasons causing migration - e.g. civil wars - appear. It is highly important that the certain large regions should not only be able to cooperate with the European Union but also with each other. The EU has to play the role of a mediator to facilitate this. The professor remarked: the main objective of the EU is to create cooperating regions, peaceful and flourishing territories, as the people are less likely to leave places where there is peace.


Viktor MARSAI mainly focused on the Sahel zone in Africa, the characteristics of the region and problems caused by them. The speaker stressed: migration is very often only a symptom. In this region, the problem is the appearance and active presence of jihadist organisations, for which the structural composition of the Sahel provides a favourable environment and it projects a long-term crisis of the region. While analysing the Sahel region we should identify trends according to the speaker, like demography (the Sahel region is experiencing the most dynamic population growth in the world), vulnerability of the states of the region (jihadist organisations are often stronger than states, they can even provide public services in certain cases), and the climate change forcing farming population to seek other forms of livelihood or to emigrate.


Professor László J. NAGY emphasised the role of sports and culture in the field of neighbourhood policy. He underlined: these might seem insignificant issues first, but if we understand each other’s history and culture we can understand each other’s motivations as well, as historic traumas influence current policy decisions. Sports can become a mediator – it is a healthy competition or rivalry that can bring players with different cultural backgrounds and different motivations closer to each other. But the professor remarked: it is not necessarily right if we try to impose European culture (especially our respect for human rights and our views formed about the rule of law) on our southern neighbours. European values root in European history. Concerning this issue, the professor asked: does democratisation have only one, exclusively European path?


In her lecture, Helga PRITZ examined the role of the southern neighbourhood policy played in the future of Europe. In her opinion the underlying vision of the European Union is the extension of the area of peace, security and prosperity to the southern neighbours. At the same time, she remarked: the European Union lags behind in realising its objectives compared to its ambitions 25 years ago. We see in North African public opinion that confidence towards the EU in the region is much weaker than what the EU had hoped for earlier, and no social model could be presented to young people living in the region that could offer an attractive perspective for them. The speaker explained the strategy and motivation of the Member States of the European Union in the field of the southern neighbourhood, – covering certain tensions and obstacles. She also detailed the issue of competition prevailing in the region: the European Union is only one among the several global economic players who are present in both economic and political arenas.


Péter KRUZSLICZ in his closing lecture approached neighbourhood policy from a practical point of view of questions - among others cultural ones - also raised by other speakers: he spoke about the relationship of the International and Regional Studies Institute with students coming from Africa and about how higher education can help approach the European Union to the countries of the southern neighbourhood, and the countries of the southern neighbourhood to the Member States of the European Union.


An intensive debate followed the lectures of the participants, and the guests connected online also played an active role in it. For example, László TRÓCSÁNYI raised the question whether we can exactly define what the European way of life means. Does it have the same meaning in the northern Member States as in an eastern Member State? The professor also remarked that democratisation as an objective should exclusively be attained through natural processes, forced tools have to be avoided by all means.


The discussion continued with the questions of the audience concerning possibilities to build trust in the European Union, the necessities of joint military interventions and identity related debates within the European Union.


The event stays available on the Facebook of the Europe Direct Szeged:

https://www.facebook.com/EuropeDirectSzeged/videos/4129680940409315 


Norbert TRIBL