(Brussels, 18/11/2015) Today Europe’s Foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and Neighbourhood policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn presented their review of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) to the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the European Parliament. CONCORD welcomes the new approach shifting towards strengthen partnerships to tackle common challenges and seize common opportunities in the Eastern and Southern Neighborhood.

The launch of the new policy approach follows the EU-Arab civil society dialogue organized by CONCORD, Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and the Euromed NGO Platform, hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee, last Monday 16 November. Over 70 civil society organizations from both shores of the Mediterranean developed together recommendations of which several were taken on board, such as the enhanced focus on building resilience, building together adequate jobs for especially young people and adherence to the Agenda 2030. Last but not least, the intention was underlined to effectively engage with civil society.

However, CONCORD is wary about the apparent shift from a human rights based approach (that was a fundament of the ENP in 2011) towards a ‘hard’ security approach. Participants at the civil society dialogue called for human rights conditionality and mainstreaming a human security approach and in the reviewed ENP. Security is not about barbed wire, but it is about investing in people, especially in education, decent jobs, social protection, and to foster the sense of solidarity amongst people. The ENP has to lay the foundations for a sustainable resilience agenda over the long term that engages civil society and grass roots organizations.

In recent years, many incidents have been witnessed that reduce the space for civil society throughout the neighborhood. For that reason CONCORD calls upon the European Institutions to step up efforts to ensure the recognition of civil society as key interlocutor for an open, meaningful, transparent, structured dialogue on local, national, regional and EU levels. Moreover, work to enhance the role of civil society allowing ‘them’ to have a meaningful and concrete impact on the ground, especially by taking concrete actions against practices by partner countries that limit the space for civil society in the region.

In the coming months, the proposals unveiled today in the Joint Communication, will be discussed with Member States and partner countries, with a view to jointly determine new priorities and the shape of future relations. CONCORD will continue working with the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and the Euromed NGO Platform to promote our joint recommendations.