Revitalizing the European ‘Neighbourhood Economic Community’: The Case for Legally Binding Sectoral Multilateralism

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Series Details Vol.17, Issue 4, November 2012, p577-604
Publication Date November 2012
ISSN 1384-6299
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The revolutionary upheaval in the southern Mediterranean and the slow reforms in most of the eastern neighbourhood have pushed the European Union to revise its approach to the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). In May 2011, the Commission presented a full review of the ENP, introducing an enhanced form of conditionality which should see more political and financial support being given to those neighbouring countries that implement more reforms and are more democratic.

Characteristic of this 'more for more' conditionality is its strong bilateral dimension. While there is some rhetorical commitment to strengthening the regional dimensions of the ENP, for example, the Union for the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership, few tangible proposals to that effect have been made. Notably, while the reviewed ENP repeats the goal of a 'Neighbourhood Economic Community' as a long-term objective of regional integration across the neighbourhood, it makes no proposals on instruments or strategy as to how to achieve that objective. This paper proposes that 'legally binding sectoral multilateralism' should be the EU's method and instrument of choice to reach that goal.

This entails a pro-active strategy consisting of treaty-based legal integration between the EU and neighbouring countries and between the latter themselves, in sectors where such is clearly beneficial in its own right, as well as in the light of the long-term objective of a neighbourhood community.

On the basis of two case studies, pertaining to the Energy Community Treaty and the draft Transport Community Treaty, the paper explores the benefits and weaknesses of this approach. The paper argues that the challenges posed by legal fragmentation in the wider European legal space can be overcome in order to reap the substantial economic and policy benefits spurred by legally binding sectoral multilateralism.

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