Basically Twinning characterizes bilateral partnership projects between the administrative bodies of EU Member States and a candidate country. Funded by the European Commission, a Twinning project relates to a specific policy area in which the candidate country should and wants to carry out reforms.
Over the past few years, this original concept has been extended in two respects: On the one hand, on the side of the Member States Twinning projects can not only be carried out by administrative institutions, but also by so called "Mandated Bodies". These are institutions which do not belong to the public administration, but are have been mandated by the European Commission to implement projects on behalf of the Member State because of their specific expertise . On the other hand, the circle of beneficiary countries has been enlarged. Twinning is no longer only conducted with candidate countries, but continues to be implemented in New Member States for a transition period after their accession as well as being increasingly carried out in the EU's neighbouring regions.
In the period 1998 to 2008 a total of over 1,600 projects have been tendered and spent over one billion euro funding from the European Commission. For the ongoing six-year budget period from 2007 to 2013, the European Union has created a new legal basis for external assistance in order to increase transparency and efficiency of the third country programmes. The numerous instruments of external assistance have been simplified and consolidated into new programme lines, which are divided into geographical and thematic instruments (eg humanitarian aid, Common Foreign and Security Policy).
The geographical instruments include:
Under two of the geographical instruments - IPA and ENPI – Twinning is implemented. The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance covers the candidate countries (Croatia, Turkey, Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland) and potential candidate countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Serbia and Kosovo). In these countries Twinning has already been carried out in the budget period from 2000 to 2006, with the intention to promote particularly the areas of institution building, administrative reform and harmoinsation of the national legislations with the EU "acquis communautaire".
The European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument is divided into ENPI East for the Western CIS (Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) and ENPI South for the Southern Mediterranean region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories and Israel). The aim of this instrument is to strengthen the cooperation between the EU and these countries and to promote sustainable development.
Through its partnership model Twinning is particularly suited for the rapprochement between the administrations of EU member states and their eastern and southern neighbours.