ChildPact contributes to shaping the future European Neighbouring Policy

Photography credits: Thijs ter Haar/Flickr

On the 30th of June, ChildPact has submitted its contribution in response to the Consultation “Towards a new European Neighbouring Policy” launched by the European Commission together with the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The aim of the consultation was to gather the inputs of every concerned stakeholder with regard to the future of the EU Neighbouring Area.

When analysing the impact of the current European Neighbouring Policy (ENP) on the child care policies in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova, ChildPact concluded that the child focused dimension is scarce in the Country Action Plans and consequently in the Progress Reports. Despite of some progressive steps taken in the child care field, further focus needs to be paid by the Armenian, Azeri, Georgian and Moldavian governments in addressing child liabilities as children remain the most vulnerable category of citizens, facing abuse, trafficking, discrimination and predominantly, poverty. Furthermore, it is also important to note, that for those ENP countries, such as Moldova, where the EU has highlighted child protection as an important policy priority, greater improvement has been made for the benefit of children. Therefore, ChildPact argues that the future ENP should specifically target child protection issues in the EU Eastern Neighbouring Area.

Accordingly, ChildPact has brought forward the following arguments and recommendations for the future ENP:

(1) The ENP should pursue the fostering of deeper relationships with the EU’s Eastern partners by promoting and supporting regional cooperation endeavours. Opportunities to pursue peace and greater security in the region should start with children. Unlike delicate political issues such as democracy building or security safeguarding, regional cooperation on child protection, as a non-sensitive issue, can open doors of collaboration towards new relationships of trust between the EU and partner governments. Furthermore, before broadening its spectrum of regional cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries and other regions in the world, the EU should not overlook the lessons learned during the previous EU accession process nor the transition experience enabled by the new EU Members States. For instance, today, Romania, one of the youngest among the EU Member States, is a powerful example of how far and well the EU-partner country engagement can go when the cooperation road is paved with political will. The EU’s tools of engagement used in Romania’s case offer a successful roadmap to encourage societal advancement in the Eastern Neighbouring area because all countries in the region express the political will to care for their children.

(2) The ENP should provide an ever more detailed framework for sector cooperation while explicitly deepening the focus of engagement on those country priorities that best serve the interests of the EU – partner government cooperation. Prosperity at EU’s boarders starts with the social and economic empowerment of the younger generation. Investing in children’s well-being implies greater democratic stability and economic development in the Eastern partner countries. On the long-term, care budgets are spared, a growing labour force is promoted, inter-ethnic dialogue is enhanced and the potential of social unrest are being tackled. Moreover, USAID, one of the most important donors in the region along with the EU, has shown that child welfare programs are among the most successful democracy-building programs that they have ever put in place. Advancing child welfare reform programs involves working with a wide range of stakeholders in the implementing countries, from local authorities, to governments, to media and civil society organisations.

(3) Amongst so many development concerns that need political and economic commitment, the EU support could mean substantial added value to the Eastern partner countries if it enables those priorities which would not get a prime time attention otherwise. Thus, by tracing more explicit roadmaps towards progress through policy instruments such as the Country Action Plans, concrete advancement could be harvested. From this perspective, ChildPact argued that the ENP Action Plans should expand the scope of the issues they are aiming to tackle, while creating a clear framework for progress for the partner countries.

(4) The ENP should continue to support an enabling environment for civil society action in the Eastern partner countries, considering that CSOs are vehicles of democratic stability, social diversity, government accountability and societal progress and involvement. ChildPact believes that child-focused CSO networks are capable of promoting regional cooperation and European values through child rights advocacy, provided that these actors are appropriately equipped in terms of internal governance, funding, advocacy and communication skills. Even more, by advocating for the promotion of a non-sensitive issue such as child protection, CSO networks contribute to fostering democracy at local levels by empowering communities and implementing tangible changes in the lives of citizens. Furthermore, networks are present through their members at the local level and unified at the national level to encourage local government ownership while promoting consistent funding and adequate capacity building at the national level.

Here you can find ChildPact’s full written contribution to the ENP review consultation.

Overall, the consultation proposed the examination of several essential elements of the EU Neighbouring Policy (ENP): (1) the differentiation in terms of policy between the East and the South; (2) the ENP instruments such as the Country Action Plans and the ENP Progress Reports; (3) the policy sectors and to which the ENP should apply; (4) tackling issues such as migration, visa liberation, security and regional cooperation; (5) EU’s role in fostering the role of civil society in partner countries. The future of the ENP is envisaged to be more flexible in comparison to the current one, aiming to be more suitable to the partner country’s needs, including to the needs of those partners who do not wish to foster closer integration with the EU. Next steps: a final Communication is planned to set out the proposals for the future direction of the European Neighbourhood Policy by October 2015.