Priority 4 - A Stronger Europe in the World

© European Union, 2021

Foreign Policy

European Neighbourhood Policy

International Cooperation and Development

Humanitarian Aid, Civil Protection

Trade Policy

Security and Defence

EU Enlargement

European Commission Work Programme 2022

EU Strategic Compass for Security and Defence


Non-legislative Act: On the 15th of February 2022 the Commission published a Communication on its contribution to European defense (press release).

Problem: Besides conflicts and crises in our neighbourhood, climate crisis and biodiversity loss are creating challenges for global security in general and for civil-military operations in particular. The recent Russian-military build-up along the eastern border of Ukraine, in Belarus, and in the Black Sea region challenges the international rules-based order. The present challenges and crises upcoming on and around our borders on land, air and at the sea, as well in cyber spaces, along important maritime routes and in outer space, underline the need to become better prepared, more capable and more resilient.

Objective: Through the new EU Strategic Compass for security and defense (“Strategic Compass”), the member states are working to tackle all threats and challenges more robustly. The European Commission wants to ensure an effective and focused implementation of the innovative instruments and initiatives, support closer defense cooperation between member states and between industries and strengthen the ability to respond in the face of acute crises and long-term challenges. Furthermore, the Commission wants to maintain and enhance close interaction with NATO.

Subject matter: Achieving these goals is only possible by developing, procuring and operating military equipment together. The Communication outlines concrete, new measures and initiatives in a number of critical areas. Firstly, investments for defense research and capabilities developed in EU cooperative frameworks should be stepped up. Through the European Defense Fund (EDF) the European Commission will invest EUR 1.9 billion in defense research and capability development projects answering member states’ capability needs. The EDF’s strategic orientation is provided o.a. through the defense capability priorities commonly agreed by member states within the framework of the Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP). It is important to ensure that the horizontal policies remain consistent with the European Union efforts to facilitate the European defense industry’s sufficient access to finance and investment. In 2022, the Commission will keep on working with the member states to further facilitate the transfer of EU-funded defense products within the internal market, in particular by supporting the full exploitation of possibilities offered by the Directive 2009/43/EC. Secondly, the synergies between civilian and defense research and innovation should be facilitated and reduce strategic dependencies. Therefore, the Commission will make a proposal that would enable a Value Added Tax (VAT) waiver to support the joint procurement and ownership of defense capabilities of the EU, while ensuring compliance with World Trade Organization rules by early 2023. Further, measures include a possible amendment to article 13 of Regulation 2021/697 establishing the European Defense Fund to reinforce the EDF bonus system when member states commit to jointly acquire and/or own the defense capabilities under development. On third place, the member states should be called upon to continue moving towards streamlined and convergent export control practices. Furthermore, the defense dimension of space at EU level should be strengthened through o.a. enhancing the protection of EU space assets and an adequate governance for EU space infrastructures. Finally, the European resilience should be enhanced. Therefore, gaps and needs must be identified such as steps to address them. Other measures concerning the European resilience address the enhancement of cybersecurity and cyber-defense, of military mobility, such as addressing climate change challenges for defense.


Non-legislative Act: On the 15th of February 2022 the Commission published a Communication about a roadmap on critical technologies for security and defense (press release).

Problem: The fragmentation of Europe’s security and defense capabilities brings economic inefficiencies, reduced operational capacity and increased strategic dependencies with it. Considering the complex global geopolitical situation and the continuing race for new technologies that are relevant for security and defense, the EU and its member states must reinforce cooperation on technologies that are critical for Europe’s long-term security and defense and efforts to reduce related strategic dependencies.

Objective: The roadmap aims to outline a path for boosting research, technology development and innovation (RTD&I) and reducing the EU’s strategic dependencies in critical technologies and value chains for security and defense. It will feed into the EU strategic Compass for security and defense.

Subject matter: These goals should be reached by (1) identifying technologies critical for EU security and defense and boosting them through European (RTD&I) programs, (2) ensuring that defense considerations are better taken into account in civilian European RTD&I programs and industrial and trade policies, such as (3) promoting from the out-set an EU-wide strategic and coordinated approach for critical technologies for security and defense and (4) coordination as much as possible with other like-minded partners under mutually beneficial conditions. Concerning the critical technologies and strategic dependencies for security and defense, the Commission will establish an expert group to facilitate exchanges with member states on critical technologies, value and supply chains. The Commission will present a study on the EU security market to better understand the specific features of the civil market security, and Commission services will produce a paper summarizing the proposals for fostering the adoption of capability-driven approaches to be applied across security sectors. Additionally, the RTD&I should be boosted on critical technologies for security and defense. Therefore, the separation between EU civilian and defense RTD&I needs to be overcome. Further, measures include linking the EU and national programs and instruments supporting RTD&I on critical technologies for security and defense should be linked, such as supporting security and defense innovation and entrepreneurship to create an EU Defense Innovation Scheme. Concretely, the Commission a.o. invites the member states to commit in the Strategic Compass and will review existing EU instruments and propose further ways to encourage dual-use RTD&I at EU level. To reduce strategic dependencies in critical technologies and value chains for security and defense, the Commission is exploring the possibility of adding defense work strands in initiatives and will, together with the member states, identify and report on the need for risk-assessing supply chains of critical infrastructure to better protect the EU’s security and defense interests. Considering the external dimension, the Commission and the High Representative will explore in the context of the EU-U.S. TTC and the recently launched EZ-U.A. dialogue on security and defence how to advance supply chain resilience and secure the protection of citizens. Together with the NATO, they will explore how to promote a mutually agreeable and beneficial interactions between their respective relevant initiatives.

Blocking Statute


Legislative, incl. impact assessment, Q2 2022.

International Energy Engagement


Non-legislative, Q1 2022.

International Ocean Governance


Non-legislative, Q2 2022.

A Partnership with the Gulf


Non-legislative, Q2 2022.

European Commission Work Programme 2021

Strengthening the EU’s Contribution to Rules-Based Multilateralism


Non-legilsative Act: On the 17th of February 2021 the Commission published a Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on strengthening the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism (press release).

Problem: The current geopolitical rivalries between the major powers are destabilizing the global order. Existing multilateral rules and organizations are increasingly being called into question. Yet rules-based international cooperation and a stronger multilateral order are needed right now to jointly confront growing global challenges, such as the COVID-19 crisis.

Objective: The European Union's goal is to work for greater peace and security in the world and to defend fundamental rights, universal values and international law. The Union wants to work for active for cooperative solutions and take the lead in overcoming the climate and biodiversity crises.

Subject Matter: Achieving the goals of expanding global security and global recovery from the pandemic will require a new impetus for the multilateral order. There is a need to develop a more stringent and strategic approach to the EU's multilateral engagement in order to contribute to an effective reform of multilateral institutions. The development of more effective cooperation mechanisms between the EU and its member states and the deepening of the EU's partnerships and alliances with third countries are indispensable for this purpose. At the same time, the EU should strengthen its role in the United Nations (UN) and thus advance measures to manage conflicts as a driving force. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU insists on the need to "build back better" in the global recovery from the pandemic. In doing so, it must ensure that the global recovery is environmentally friendly, digital, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. In addition, the Communication focuses on the effort to ensure compliance with international standards and agreements. It is necessary to ensure that the UN Human Rights Council acts more effectively and that international judicial authorities and arbitration and enforcement bodies are supported. Furthermore, the implementation of the goals foresees reforms for relevant multilateral organizations. For example, the EU supports the reform process initiated by the UN Secretary-General to make the UN fit for purpose. Moreover, multilateralism should be extended to new global issues, such as international taxation, consumer protection, pollution, etc. For a more effective use of the EU's strengths, it is necessary to strengthen coherence and coordination within the EU. In addition, the EU's ability to actively participate, be effectively represented, and speak with one voice is critical. Funding for the multilateral system is made possible by the "Team Europe" concept. The concept promises to more effectively leverage the collective contributions of the EU and member states in support of agreed policy priorities and in the context of their implementation, and in favor of greater coherence in international fora. The formation of alliances, partnerships and regional cooperation must be strengthened, as well as cooperation with multilateral institutions.

The Arctic Dimension


Non-legilsative Act: On the 13th of October 2021 the European Commission put forward a Communication about a stronger EU engagement for a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic (press release).

Problem: Climate change represents the most comprehensive threat the Arctic is facing and has reached an unprecedented crisis point. Through its environmental footprint and demand for resources and products origination in the Arctic, the EU exerts a significant impact on the region. At the same time intensified interest in Arctic resources and transport routes could transform the region into an arena of local and geopolitical competition and possible tensions The EU’s interests concerning the region could be threatened. The interlinked challenges and opportunities can best be tackled in a coordinated manner and in close cooperation of the European Union with Arctic states, regional authorities and local communities.

Objective: The Communication aims for the EU’s full engagement in Arctic matters. The objectives include the support of the inclusive and sustainable development of the Arctic regions to the benefit of its inhabitants and the tackling of the ecological, social, economic and political challenges of climate change. Furthermore the EU wants to contribute to maintaining peaceful and constructive dialogue and intensifying cooperation in a changing geopolitical landscape to keep the Arctic safe and stable.

Subject matter: To maintain a peaceful and constructive dialogue and to guarantee a peaceful cooperation in the new geopolitical setting different measures must be taken. This includes i.e. the EU’s involvement in all relevant Arctic Council working groups, the push for an All Atlantic ocean research alliance from Pole to Pole and the establishment of a European Commission Office to strengthen and enhance the EU-Greenland cooperation. For making the Arctic more resilient to climate change and environmental degradation measures must be taken in close cooperation with national, regional and local authorities. The European Union should i.e. push for oil, coal and gas to remain in the ground, including in Arctic regions, reduce the quantity of black carbon emissions, support the designation of Marine Protected Areas in the Arctic Ocean and promote faster and more ambitious emissions reductions for Arctic shipping. The inclusive and sustainable development of the Arctic regions to the benefit of its inhabitants should be achieved by the involvement of women, young and Indigenous people in relevant decision-making processes and the improvement of transport connectivity through TEN-T corridor extensions. Additionally the EU will invest in Arctic research under Horizon Europe and boost digital connectivity in Arctic regions through EU space programs and the Connecting Europe Facility

Southern Neighbourhood


Non-legilsative Act: On the 9th of February 2021 the Commission published a Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, The European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions concerning the renewed partnership with the Southern Neighbourhood (press release).

Problem: As early as 25 years ago, the European Union and the partners in the southern Mediterranean jointly decided to make the Mediterranean region an area of exchange, dialogue and cooperation in order to ensure peace, stability and prosperity. Especially against the backdrop of the Arab Spring, the challenges facing the region are unmistakable. The challenges of the Southern Mediterranean can be traced back to global trends and require joint action by the EU and partners in the Southern Neighborhood.

Objective: The new Agenda for the Mediterranean proposed in this Communication aims to revitalize cooperation and realize the region’s untapped potential. The perspective of building in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis provides the opportunity to commit to a common and people-centered agenda and the actions needed to implement it. The new agenda also aims to build green, digital, resilient and equitable in line with the principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal.

Subject Matter: The new agenda includes new areas and forms of cooperation. New partnership cornerstones include both an "Economic and Investment Plan for the Southern Neighborhood" to advance long-term, socioeconomic recovery, and joining forces to combat climate change, reduce harmful emissions and accelerate environmental transformation. Furthermore, the new agenda calls for increased commitment to the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, equality, democracy and good governance, as well as jointly addressing the challenges of flight and irregular migration. In addition, the new agenda calls for a stronger commitment to unity and solidarity among EU member states, as well as mutual engagement and joint action with Southern Neighborhood partners. The new agenda proposes a number of actions in key policy areas. With a view to human development, good governance and the rule of law, the new agenda promotes, among other things, international social and labor rights and measures to eliminate violence against women and girls. Preparedness and coping capacities of health systems in the event of pandemics are to be supported. Cooperation in various areas, such as digital literacy, is to be promoted. To strengthen resilience, promote prosperity and exploit the opportunities offered by the digital transformation, the new agenda is to include support for the development of sustainable tourism and participation in the EU's Horizon Europe framework program. Peace and security are to be guaranteed, for example, by investing in the prevention of and fight against radicalization and intensifying dialogs on counterterrorism. In the area of migration and mobility, support is to be provided, among other things, to partners' capacities for effective migration and asylum management.

Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants


Non-legislative Act: On the 21st of December 2021 the Commission published a Joint Communication on an EU strategic approach in support of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of former combatants (press release).

Problem: Armed conflicts destabilise states and entire regions, confronting the European Union with direct and indirect consequences, as well as new security challenges. There is thus an urgent need for the EU to act more than ever as a global peace actor against instability and conflicts outside its borders.

Objective: With the help of an updated disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DD&R) strategy for ex-combatants, the EU aims to make a significant contribution to stabilisation and the establishment of lasting peace.

Subject matter: The Communication presents an EU-wide comprehensive strategy for assessing and engaging in DD&R processes. It also proposes ways and means to jointly design and support DD&R measures in affected countries and regions in accordance with international law. According to the established participation criteria, categories of persons eligible for DD&R interventions include abducted children, survivors and other victims; family members and others associated with members of armed groups; returning civilians and persons who have demobilised themselves, etc. The key components of DD&R interventions include disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration. The area of disarmament includes measures such as the collection, documentation, control and disposal of weapons. The EU can contribute to disarmament, inter alia by initiating sectoral or general policy dialogue or by providing support measures and technical advice to national and local authorities. The process of demobilisation refers to the separation and/or disengagement of adult members of armed forces or armed groups from command structures and their transition to civilian life. Here the EU can contribute in the form of training to prepare for civilian life or similar. Reintegration describes the process of transition of former combatants and their helpers to life as members of the civilian community. To this end, the absorption capacity of host communities and authorities is to be increased, e.g. by strengthening local administrative structures, capacities and procedures. To address the broad challenges of DD&R, the EU draws on its multidimensional contributions to peace, security and development. To strengthen the effectiveness of the initiative, it is important to use common strategies and instruments of the Integrated Approach. It is necessary that all relevant EU actors coordinate and consult each other at the political, strategic and operational levels. Thus, DD&R efforts need to be coordinated with the EU's activities in the field of security and defence: civilian and military CSDP missions and operations should be in line with the objectives of the DD&R process. Within the framework of the DD&R strategy, the EU will combine immediate action with long-term, geographical, regional and thematic engagement in support of DD&R processes. The task of the EEAS and the relevant Commission service is to develop monitoring and evaluation criteria and to evaluate the findings.

Research, Innovation, Education and Youth


Non-legilsative Act: On the 18th of May 2021 the European Commission put forward a Communication11 on the global approach to research and innovation (Press release12).

Problem: Coping with future challenges like maintaining prosperity and competitiveness, a fair digital transformation or establishing a sustainable industry depends on innovative solutions. Therefore, resources need to be mobilized concerning the sectors of research and innovation. The European principle of an international cooperation in research and innovation, respecting its key values like the academic freedom, is suffering from little financial investment and a global antimultilateral trend. Beside these problems many countries are trying to instrumentalize innovation and research to act out social control and enlarge their global influence.

Objective: The EU wants to face the global trend by presenting itself as a role model for openness in international research and innovation cooperation. Its objective is to support multilateral partnerships of innovation and research. The EU aims to strengthen its leading role to deliver new solutions to challenges in areas such as environment, health, digitalization, society and innovation. At the same time, the EU aims to reach an open strategic autonomy.

Subject matter: The realization of this strategic autonomy should be guaranteed by a flexible bilateral cooperation with third countries in terms of innovation and research. This cooperation should make the realization of European interests and values possible. Additionally resources of science and technology should be mobilized in countries with little income to accelerate the transition to sustainable societies and economies. To maximize the effectiveness and the impact of the actions, actions by the EU, financial institutions and member states should be combined. Concrete measures are planned for all future relevant sectors of the EU. For example common principles are being developed for international cooperation, or guidelines for dealing with foreign interference that targets EU research organizations and higher education institutions should be developed and promoted. By establishing the “New European Bauhaus initiative”, the EU presents an international knowledge management platform. Furthermore, the EU wants to build strong digital partnerships and strengthen the cooperation with industrialized non-EU countries and emerging economies. The EU’s Partnership with counties and regions in Africa and Latin America is also to be deepened.
A first review of progress is will take place at an international conference in 2022.

EU’s Humanitarian Aid


Non-legilsative Act: On 10th of March 2021 the Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on the EU’s humanitarian action.

Problem: Humanitarian aid is a central pillar of the EU's external action and highly relevant to its ability to spread its values worldwide. However, humanitarian aid is currently facing a number of challenges, which have once again been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While on the one hand the need for humanitarian assistance is greater than ever before, on the other hand the gap between humanitarian needs and the resources available worldwide is widening.

Objective: Facing the many challenges of humanitarian assistance, the EU aims to give new impetus to its humanitarian aid policy so that it can better respond to growing humanitarian needs.

Subject matter: Priority actions for the EU with regard to humanitarian assistance include promoting flexible and efficient humanitarian operations and funding mechanisms, for example, by developing guidelines to promote equal partnerships with local aid workers. Further it should ensure that EU humanitarian aid is delivered quickly and efficiently to those in need. The resource base for humanitarian action is to be significantly expanded, e.g. by intensifying EU cooperation with traditional and emerging donor countries. Alliances need to be formed and strengthened to reinforce the global humanitarian agenda. In addition, the impact of climate change and environmental factors should be consistently integrated into humanitarian aid policy and practice. To this end, the share of climate change funding for resilience building and climate change adaptation in the most disaster-prone countries and regions should be significantly increased. Risk-aware approaches are to be further developed and applied in this context. To reduce overall humanitarian needs and address the root causes of conflict and crisis, it must be guaranteed that humanitarian, development and peace policies work together. This framework will include strengthening coordination mechanisms for EU humanitarian aid, development, and peacebuilding activities on the ground. In the context of the "Team Europe" approach, cooperation with EU member states will be intensified. Prioritize compliance with international humanitarian law in the EU's external action to protect civilians, support principled humanitarian action, and ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and medical personnel. By organizing a European Humanitarian Aid Forum in 2021 to promote dialogue on humanitarian aid policy issues, the EU's engagement and leadership in humanitarian aid will be strengthened.

Consular Protection


Legislative, Article 23 TFEU, Q4 2021.

European Commission Work Programme 2020

International Cooperation


Legislative procedure completed: The agreement was initialed on 15 April 2021 at the end of the negotiations. The contents of the agreement were taken over unchanged as mentioned below.

Proposal: On the 3rd of December 2020 the European Union and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) reached a political deal on the text for a new Partnership Agreement (press release).

Problem: The European Union and the members of the OACPS represent a significant weight in the world. In order to cope with global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, maritime policy, migration, peace and security, it is necessary to prepare for them together in the course of a new agreement.

Objective: The new agreement aims to strengthen each of the participating regions in their ability to jointly address global challenges. Once in force, the agreement will serve as a new legal framework, but also as a guide for political and economic relations and cooperation between the EU and the members of the OACPS in the years to come.

Subject Matter: The new agreement establishes common principles and covers the following priority areas in which the two sides intend to cooperate: (1) human rights, democracy and governance, (2) peace and security, (3) human and social development, (4) environmental sustainability and climate change, (5) inclusive sustainable economic growth and development, and (6) migration and mobility. Complementing the foundation part of the partnership agreement, the agreement includes three regional protocols for Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, focusing on the specific needs of the regions. The regional protocols will have their own administrative structures, which will include joint parliamentary committees and provide governance for relations between the EU and each region. In addition, an overarching common OACPS-EU framework with a strong parliamentary dimension will be established. Now that political agreement has been reached, the text will go through internal procedures and finally be initialled by the chief negotiators. The signature of the agreement will take place at a later stage in 2021.

Financial Sovereignty


Non-legislative, Q3 2020.

Africa Strategy


Non-legilsative Act: On the 9th of March 2020 the Commission published a Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council concerning a comprehensive strategy with Africa (press release).

Problem: There are close ties between the EU and Africa, both for historical and geographical reasons and because of common interests. Numerous changes of an economic, political, social, demographic and environmental nature are creating both new prospects and new challenges for the African continent. Africa's potential is increasing the cooperation with the continent among numerous actors. Thus, Europe needs to adapt the way it cooperates with Africa so that the interests of both sides can be covered.

Objective: To strengthen the EU's strategic alliance with Africa, it is necessary to jointly develop a new comprehensive strategy that addresses the existing challenges and develops measures that ensure stability, peace, security, sustainable economic growth, etc. To this end, cooperation is to be expanded in five areas: A partnership (1) on the green transition and access to energy, (2) on the digital transformation, (3) on sustainable growth and employment, (4) on peace and good governance, and a partnership (5) on migration and mobility.

Subject matter: In the area of a green transition, both the EU and Africa must focus on a low-carbon resource-efficient and climate-resilient future. Innovation has a key role to play here. In addition to investments to strengthen scientific capacities in Africa, more trade should also contribute to the introduction of innovative, sustainable business models, among other things. In addition, a clean circular economy is to be established, among other things, which is crucial for the transition to a sustainable economic model. Joint measures will be taken to improve maritime policy and protect forests. In the area of digital transformation, investments in infrastructure and policies for full digital inclusion are needed. The digital transformation is of significant relevance to Africa and could create a large number of much-needed jobs. In addition, accelerating the digitization of public administration is an essential element for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. With regard to the Partnership for Sustainable Growth and Jobs, it is important to promote trade and sustainable investment in Africa, improve the investment climate and business environment, and foster regional and continental economic integration, particularly through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. It also aims to improve access to quality education, skills, research, innovation, health and social rights. To realize the fourth partnership for peace and security, it is important to strengthen joint engagement and implement more structured and strategic cooperation, with a particular focus on regions where tensions and vulnerabilities are highest. Resilience should be ensured by linking humanitarian, development, peace and security policies at all stages of the conflict and crisis cycle. Finally, a balanced and comprehensive approach to migration and mobility must be developed, based on principles of solidarity, partnership and shared responsibility.



Non-legilsative Act: On the 5th of February 2020 the Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on strenghtening the accession process for the Western Balkans (press release).

Problem: In times of increased geopolitical competition, a credible accession perspective for the Western Balkans represents more than ever a geostrategic investment in a stable, strong and united Europe. To secure its influence in the region and spread European values such as democracy and the rule of law, the Western Balkans' firm and merit-based prospect of full EU membership is in the Union's own political, security and economic interest.

Objective: The objective of the Communication is to improve the accession process in the areas of credibility, political governance, dynamization of the negotiation process and predictability regarding positive and negative conditionality.

Subject matter: To promote the credibility of the accession process, it must be based on mutual trust and clear commitments on both sides. To this end, it is essential that the leaders of the Western Balkans fulfill their commitments. Moreover, credibility should be strengthened by a stronger focus on the essential reform projects. Negotiations regarding these should be guided by individual roadmaps in the areas central to accession, such as the rule of law, the functioning of democratic institutions and stronger linkages between economic reform programs. Stronger political management should, among other things, focus on the political nature of the process and signal more leadership on both sides. To this end, regular summits between the EU and the Western Balkans are to be held. All bodies established under the Stabilization and Association Agreements are to focus more on key political issues and reforms. The Communication invites the Member States to systematize their participation in the accession negotiations, against which the Commission will make more detailed proposals on how to proceed with the reforms. The introduction of thematic clusters concerning the negotiation chapters is intended to increase the dynamics of the negotiation process. This will focus the policy dialogue more on core sectors and identify the most important and urgent reforms for each sector. The clusters will be assigned to SAA subcommittees, allowing progress in each cluster to be monitored. Furthermore, the process will be made clearer and more concrete. There is a need for member states to have a clear understanding of exactly what is required of candidate countries. The conditions for progress by the candidate countries should be objective, precise, detailed, rigorous and verifiable. Sufficient implementation of agreed reform priorities should lead to increased funding and investment, as well as increased integration of the country with the EU. On the other hand, persistent stagnation or regression in the implementation of reforms should be sanctioned.


Non-legilsative Act: On the 29th of April 2020, the Commission published a Communication on the support to the Western Balkans in tackling COVID-19 and the post-pandemic recovery. The Communication represents the Commission’s contribution ahead of the EU-Western Balkans leaders meeting on 6th of May 2020 (press release).

Problem: The Western Balkans represent an integral part of Europe and are thus of central geostrategic importance for the European Union. Promoting stability and prosperity in this region is therefore also of significant relevance for the EU. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, which is having a negative impact on the region's economy and people's lives, it is important to support European partners in the Western Balkans.

Objective: European Union action is aimed at supporting the Western Balkans in the fight against COVID-19 and in post-pandemic reconstruction. Furthermore, longer-term EU aid to the areas of cooperation will be identified, as well as a further intensification of EU engagement and support for the realization of the European perspective.

Subject matter: As part of the EU's support to partners in the Western Balkans in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU is providing more than €3.3 billion in financial assistance to countries in the region. The financial package includes a proposal for macro-financial assistance and a support package from the European Investment Bank, in addition to the redeployment of funds from the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance. This financial support is intended to address the immediate health crisis and resulting humanitarian needs, as well as longer-term and structural impacts on society and the economy. In addition, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated in this context, providing partners with appropriate assistance from EU Member States. The Commission is also ready to involve the region in the implementation of its "Joint European Roadmap" for the lifting of COVID-19 containment measures. An economic and investment plan to revitalize the economy is envisaged for the post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery period. A total budget of 14.5 billion euros is foreseen for the period 2021-2027. In addition, financial guarantees to support public and private investments in the region will be significantly increased through the specific guarantee instrument of the Western Balkans Investment Framework. The investments are expected to contribute to a green and digital transformation in the region. To improve connectivity within the region and with the EU, EU funding of €1 billion will be allocated to the Connectivity Agenda. In particular, the challenges of young people should be addressed by doubling Erasmus+ funding for the region. All these support measures aim in the long term to transform the economies of the Western Balkans into functioning market economies capable of full integration into the EU single market. A prerequisite for an effective recovery from the current crisis is that the countries continue to deliver on their reform commitments. This also requires a stronger focus on the rule of law and the functioning of democratic institutions and public administration.

Eastern Partnership


Non-legilsative Act: On the 18th of March 2020 the Commission published a Joint Communication about the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020 (press release).

Problem: In May 2019, the European Commission launched a consultation on the future of the Eastern Partnership. This revealed that while there is a broad consensus overall that the Eastern Partnership currently has a solid policy framework and delivers tangible results for people, governance outcomes need to be significantly improved.

Objective: The overarching policy goal of strengthening resilience is to be achieved through collaboration on the realization of various long-term strategic goals for the Eastern Partnership post-2020. The long-term goals include resilient, sustainable, and integrated economies, environmental and climate resilience, and digital transformation resilience. Furthermore, accountable institutions, rule of law and security, and resilient, fair and inclusive societies are to be promoted.

Subject matter: To achieve the goal of resilient, sustainable and integrated economies, one of the objectives is to further deepen trade and economic integration with and between partner countries. This will involve selective and gradual economic integration of countries into the EU single market, The EU will work with partner countries in various multilateral fora and seek to build alliances on global economic issues. For the implementation of structural reforms investment and access to finance are of great relevance. By increasing the use of the euro in external trade, the EU aims to further strengthen partner countries and their economic relations with the EU and help ensure their economic and financial stability. Furthermore, interconnectivity between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries must be intensified in the transport and energy sectors, among others. Support for research and innovation, as well as reform of the education system, should strengthen the social and economic resilience of the partner countries. The creation and promotion of accountable institutions, the rule of law and security are to be ensured through judicial reforms to align with European standards and an active role for international organizations and experts. Corruption and white-collar crime are to be fought with the help of digital tools. The fight against organized crime is to be carried out, among other things, through security sector reforms and increased cooperation with the EU agencies responsible for justice and home affairs. In the area of environmental and climate resilience, the EU aims to support the ecological turnaround in the countries concerned. This includes improving public health by modernizing medical facilities. Halting the loss of biodiversity is to be addressed, for example, through sustainable agriculture and fisheries supported by the EU. In addition, green growth will also be promoted through awareness raising as well as rapid conversion to sustainable and intelligent mobility. Resilience in digital transformation is to be promoted, among other things, through the development of a digital infrastructure. The goal of a resilient, fair and inclusive society is to be realized, for example, through greater involvement of citizens in political decision-making. In this context, the ability of civil society organizations to get involved in political decision-making processes and policy dialog is to be strengthened. Young people are to be motivated to participate in civic engagement through cooperation projects and volunteering. An action plan against disinformation is to strengthen the media environment. The promotion of human rights in the partner countries is to be supported by the EU. Finally, mobility between countries is to be improved, for example through mobility partnerships and labor migration initiatives.

Human Rights, Democracy and Gender Equality


Non-legislative Act: On the 25th of March 2020 the Commission published a Joint Communication on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 (press release).

Problem: The EU is founded on a firm commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In a changing geopolitical landscape, the EU's global leadership in the defence of human rights and democracy is becoming even more evident. While much progress has already been made in this area, the defence of human rights and democracy also faces new challenges, including technological and environmental ones.

Objective: The EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy aims to consolidate the EU's longer-term commitment to human rights and democracy as part of a renewed strategic agenda. The objectives and priorities for the next five years in this area of external relations are intended to contribute to the goal of a stronger Europe in the world. The Communication includes (1) strengthening the EU's leadership in promoting and protecting human rights and democracy worldwide; (2) identifying priorities, setting EU objectives and focusing on implementation in the context of new geopolitical, environmental and digital challenges; (3) expanding the human rights toolbox; and (4) promoting a united and more coordinated EU by promoting effective and coherent action.

Subject matter: Looking at the digital turn, new opportunities and challenges can be identified. Digital technologies can promote human rights and democratisation on the one hand by facilitating public participation, but on the other hand they can lead to abusive and unlawful restrictions on freedom of movement and expression. The other fundamental turn in ecology is driven by global environmental problems such as environmental degradation, pollution and climate change. While civil society can increase its voice by reporting human rights violations and demanding concrete action to protect the climate, the negative impacts of climate change can simultaneously multiply challenges to a range of rights. The new action plan sets out five interrelated lines of action: (1) protecting and empowering individuals, (2) building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies, (3) promoting a global human rights and democracy system, (4) new technologies to harness opportunities and address challenges, and (5) delivering results through collaboration. To implement the five new lines of action, the broad range of policies and instruments available to the EU will be used. The focus in implementing the Action Plan is on improving coherence and strengthening the link between internal and external policies. The central role in the dynamic implementation of the Action Plan will be played by the EU Special Representative for Human Rights.


Non-legilsative Act: On the 25th of November 2020 the Commission published a Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council about the EU Gender Action Plan (GAP) III for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the EU external action (press release).

Problem: Although gender equality is a core value of the EU and widely recognized as a human right, not a single country in the world has yet been able to ensure gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls by 2030. Despite some progress towards gender equality, deep-rooted inequalities persist.

Objective: Based on the EU Strategy for Gender Equality 2020-2025, which aims to achieve a Europe of equality, this new EU Action Plan for Gender Equality 2021-2025 (GAP III) calls for a world of equality. It also complements the LGBTIQ equality strategy for the period 2020-2025.

Subject matter: This EU action plan provides a policy framework to boost its level of engagement, which focuses on five pillars. The first pillar concerns strengthening the effectiveness of the EU's commitment to gender equality as a cross-cutting priority of the EU's external action in policy-making and programming. This requires gender mainstreaming in all external policies and sectors, as well as a rights-based and intersectional approach focused on changing gender roles. As part of this, the EU has committed that by 2025, at least 85% of all new external actions will include gender equality as a key objective. The second pillar focuses on promoting the EU's strategic engagement at multilateral, regional and national levels and strengthening the effective implementation of GAP III in each partner country and region. This will require more coordination, cooperation and transparency. In addition, the EU should strengthen its leadership role in achieving gender equality, empowerment and the role of women and girls at the multilateral level and help advance this agenda in international fora. The third pillar of the action plan concerns focusing on thematic priority areas. These include protection against all forms of gender-based violence, strengthening the economic and social rights and empowerment of girls and women, etc. The EU measures are intended to contribute to combating sexual and gender-based violence, among other things. Fourth is the EU's plan to lead by example by creating gender-balanced leadership at the highest political and management levels in the EU. Last is the reporting and communication of results. Provision is made for the establishment of a quantitative, qualitative and inclusive monitoring system to strengthen public accountability, ensure transparency and access to information, and improve the EU's outreach to the world on the results of its actions.

Trade Policy

Non-legislative, Q4 2020.

ZEI Related Publications

Western Balkans and the European Union

Ermir I. Hajdini, Nikola Jokić, Teodora Lađić, Ksenija Milenković, Denis Preshova, Flandra Syla

ZEI Discussion Paper C 258 / 2020

Nach einem Jahrzehnt der Vernachlässigungen und Versäumnisse ist die Zeit gekommen, um die vollständige Einbeziehung aller Länder des westlichen Balkan in die Europäische Union voranzutreiben. ZEI Alumni aus der Region, alle unterdessen in eindrucksvollen Positionen in ihren Staaten und Gesellschaften, bringen ihre Frustration, aber auch die Hoffnung zum Ausdruck: Die neue EU Führung muss die unvollständig gebliebene Agenda der EU Erweiterung in den nächsten Jahren komplettieren um sich nicht den Vorwurf einzuhandeln, die Jugend des westlichen Balkan verloren zu haben.

Rechtsstaatlichkeit in der EU als Schlüsselfaktor für eine resiliente Außenpolitik gegenüber Autokraten

Robert Stüwe

In: Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik, Vol. 13, Iss. 3 (2020), S. 271-285. DOI: 10.1007/s12399-020-00817-6

Rechtsstaatsfeindliche Regierungsparteien in der EU buhlen um die Gunst autokratischer Großmächte wie China oder Russland und machen die Union so anfälliger für deren Einflussnahme. Das Zusammenwirken undemokratischer Kräfte von innen und außen untergräbt dabei nicht nur den Rechtsstaat, sondern legt auch zentrale außenpolitische Machthebel der EU gegenüber Drittstaaten – die Erweiterungs- und Außenhandelspolitik – lahm. Zudem verfestigen sich staatskapitalistische Strukturen, welche die Funktionsfähigkeit der gemeinsamen Energiepolitik einschränken. Der Beitrag analysiert diese Entwicklungen und erörtert, was die EU der Autokratisierung entgegensetzen kann.

A Stronger Europe in the World

Stephen C. Calleya

In: Robert Stüwe (ed.): ZEI Future of Europe Observer. Von der Leyen: Europe's New Deal Despite Corona?, Vol. 8 No. 1 April 2020, S. 10-11.

Diese Ausgabe des ZEI Future of Europe Observer bildet den Auftakt für das neu ausgerichtete Forschungsprojekt des ZEI zu den jährlichen Arbeitsprogrammen der Europäischen Kommission. Das ZEI-Projekt baut auf der bisherigen Arbeit des ZEI zur Juncker-Kommission auf. Zur Veranschaulichung des Stands einzelner Gesetzesmaßnahmen der EU soll die ZEI-Monitor-Ampel dienen. Im vorliegenden Heft analysieren unsere Research Fellows die sechs politischen Prioritäten der von der Leyen-Kommission und werfen einen Blick auf die anstehenden Aufgaben.

A Stronger Global Actor - Strengthening the Global Role of Europe

Andreas Marchetti

In: Stüwe, Robert / Panayotopoulos, Thomas (eds.): The Juncker Commission. Politicizing EU Policies (Schriftenreihe des Zentrum für Europäische Integrationsforschung, Bd. 79), Nomos: Baden-Baden 2020, S. 181-191. ISBN 978-3-8487-5597-4.

Das primäre Erkenntnisinteresse des Buches besteht darin, Strategien der Europäischen Kommission beim Umgang mit dem Phänomen der Politisierung in der EU‐Gesetzgebung zu erforschen. In einer Fallstudie zur Amtszeit von Präsident Jean‐Claude Juncker analysieren die Autoren des Sammelbandes, wie die EU‐Kommission zwischen 2014 und 2019 bestimmte politische Schwerpunkte gesetzt hat, um ihre Agenda voranzutreiben. Gegenstand der Analyse sind die zehn politischen Prioritäten der Juncker‐Kommission aus den jährlichen Arbeitsprogrammen seit 2014. Ausgangspunkt der Studie ist das von Juncker proklamierte Selbstverständnis als „politischer Kommission“. Die Bewertung der „Politisierung“ integrationspolitischer Vorhaben fällt dabei ambivalent aus: Auf der einen Seite hat die Juncker Kommission politisierte Themen gezielt aufgegriffen und als Gelegenheiten zur politischen Führung sowie zur Schärfung des eigenen institutionellen Profils genutzt. Auf der anderen Seite sah sich die EU‐Kommission zuweilen gezwungen, bei Krisen und Kontroversen Schadensbegrenzung zu betreiben.


Further publications can be found in the ZEI archive

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