EU commitments in bilateral relations with Southern neighbourhood countries

Bilateral Association Agreements have been signed between the EU and a number of the Southern Mediterranean countries.

These agreements are legally binding to both sides. Those agreements contain a clause allowing for the suspension of signatory countries or the introduction of sanctions in the case of a violation of democratic principles or human right. Despite occasional calls from the European Parliament or civil society, this clause has not been invoked with regard to any of the Southern Mediterranean partners to date.

Some countries have been granted an advanced status to entail closer political relations and increase EU financial support. Currently it is the case of Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan.

Joint structures between the EU and its partners implementing the Association Agreements

  • Association Council: Ministerial-level meeting that usually takes place once a year. The EU is represented by the High Representative for foreign affairs or the European Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner, and the Southern partner by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • Association Committee: An annual meeting of high-level public servants/ senior officials. Prepares the Association Council and discusses mainly technical cooperation.
  • Sub-committees: Technical sub-committees covering various areas of co-operation. These meetings happen once a year at the civil servant level of the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the relevant ministries of the partner country. There are specific human rights sub-committee meetings.

The EEAS organises consultation meetings with NGOs in Brussels and on the ground. It is expected to debrief them systematically.