Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) (01/09/2011)

Background document on the Eastern Partnership policy and the Committee of the Regions

Under the European Neighbourhood Policy the European Union has created a specific partnership for its Eastern neighbours. The Eastern Partnership (EaP) was approved as an element of common EU foreign policy at the EaP summit in Prague in May 2009.

The initiative proposed an enhanced relationship with six countries (Armenia, Azerbaidjan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine). and is both bilateral and multilateral in scope.  The aim of the policy is to support further reforms and strengthen relations between the EU and the partner countries on the basis of common values. The Eastern Partnership is meant to complement the Union for the Mediterranean by providing an institutionalised forum for discussion with the EU's Eastern neighbours.

The Eastern Partnership has had a dynamic start. It is now on track and in a phase of consolidation, both bilaterally and multilaterally. The upcoming Eastern Partnership summit of heads of state to be held in Warsaw on 29 September 2011 will provide an opportunity to take stock of the implementation of the Eastern Partnership initiative.

The Committee of the Regions was at the inception of the Eastern Partnership initiative.1 In 2009, it adopted a report on the role of local and regional authorities within the Eastern Partnership (rapporteur: István Sértő-Radics, HU/ALDE, member of CORLEAP).

Furthermore, a "Forum of the EaP" took place on 16 and 17 June 2009, in conjunction with the CoR plenary session. The aim was to exchange experiences and stimulate local projects in the EU Member States and the countries of the Eastern Partnership.

In 2011 the CoR adopted six opinions, covering local and regional development and cooperation with the European Union in each partner country. The CoR opinions assess to what extent local and regional authorities are involved in the preparation of bilateral cooperation agreements with the EU and the implementation of the Eastern Partnership initiative, including the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI) and cross-border cooperation, in the respective partner countries. Furthermore, the opinions explore the ways in which the CoR could provide value added in terms of supporting modernizstion, reforms and administrative capacity building at the local and regional level – issues that have been identified to be common to all six partner countries.

The European Commission has asked the Committee of Regions to contribute to the Eastern Partnership by setting up a body to bring together regional and local authorities of the EU and the EaP. The CoR took a decision on this Commission request in 2011. The annual Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities of the Eastern Partnership and the EU (CORLEAP) is gathering at its first meeting on 8th September 2011 in Poznań under the Polish Presidency of the Council. CORLEAP will be launched from now as a yearly event.

The main working tool of the Eastern Partnership policy are thematic platforms during which  senior officials working  in the relevant policy areas meet at least twice a year. These meetings, prepared and chaired by the Commission and the European External Action Service, take place within the framework of four thematic platforms. 2

  • Platform 1 "Democracy, good governance and stability"
  • Platform 2 "Economic integration and convergence with EU sectoral policies"
  • Platform 3 "Energy security"
  • Platform 4 " Contacts between people"

The platforms take the form of target-oriented sessions giving the opportunity for open and free discussions on the main areas of cooperation. The participants are ministers and senior officials from partner countries and their colleagues from EU Member States. Subjects are based on a bi-annual work programme and specific proposals of initiatives by Member States. The new work programme will be adopted in autumn 2011.

The Committee of the Regions is a permanent participant in Platform 1 and Platform 4. In summer 2011 the CoR has requested the participation in the work of Platform 2 and Platform 3 in the same capacity.

The progress of Eastern Partnership is reviewed and political guidance is provided during biannual meetings of heads of state or government from the 27 EU Member States and the partner countries of the Eastern Partnership and the annual meetings of foreign ministers.

The Civil Society Forum (CSF) provides a civil society element to the Eastern Partnership. The CSF now has over 200 participants. Those are non-governmental organizations from the partner countries and EU. The CSF holds a conference at least once a year. The CSF is further divided into four working groups that monitor the work of the four thematic platforms of Eastern Partnership albeit the CSF is not yet member of the platforms.

The EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly is the parliamentary component of the Eastern Partnership. It consists of members of the European Parliament and the parliaments of Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. After the 2010 elections in Belarus  were declared flawed by the OSCE, Belarus does not take part in the Assembly's activities for the time being, but with all Partners' understanding that its members will be welcomed as soon as possible provided the membership political requirements will be fulfilled3.

The Eastern Partnership policy initiative is financed through the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI)4 managed by the European Commission.
TAIEX (Technical Assistance and Information Exchange) 5 is an instrument originally introduced for enlargement countries. Now it is gradually being introduced to neighbouring partner countries and Russia. TAIEX is largely demand-driven and is an effective tool for the dissemination of know-how and good practice. It delivers public short-term technical assistance and expertise.

3 To take part in the work of the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly, a Parliament shall be part of the constitutional system of one of the countries participating in the Eastern Partnership; have been elected according to OSCE commitments, and other international standards for democratic elections; commit itself to protecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, pluralistic democracy and the rule of law. (Art. 3 Constituent Act of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly).