On Tuesday 2 March, the European Commission decided to allocate the sum of €5.7 billion to fund political and economic reform projects and regional cooperation in the 17 countries under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) over the next three years (2011-2013). The overall amount has increased compared to the first period of existence of the instrument, when the ENPI had a budget of €5.8 billion, but over a period of four years (2007-2010). Under the new programme, particular emphasis has been laid on inter-regional cooperation projects, which will take the lion’s share of the budget (€758 million).
Catherine Ashton, the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs who, in her capacity as vice-president of the Commission, was directly involved in Tuesday’s decision, defended the increase of the budget for the neighbourhood policy. „We offer stronger links of political association and economic integration. Increased EU funding is an important tool to achieve these goals“, she said. Stefan Füle, the enlargement commissioner, also said that a successful neighbourhood policy must come at a price. Permanent political instability and a worsening economic situation in the neighbour countries would be an even higher price to pay, he said.