EU Relations with Eastern Partnership

What is the Eastern Partnership?

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a joint initiative involving the EU, its Member States and 6 eastern European partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and  Ukraine.

It is based on a commitment to the principles of international law and fundamental values - democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. It also encompasses support for a market economy, sustainable development and good governance.

The EU and partner countries leaders meet every other year in Eastern Partnership Summits. The latest Eastern partnership Summit Declaration , agreed in May 2015 in Riga, reviewed the cooperation and provided the direction for further joint action.

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Differentiation and inclusivity

The EU is committed to building strong and mutually beneficial relations with all six partners, irrespective of their individual level of ambition in their relations with the EU.

The Association Agreements/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (AA/DCFTAs ), concluded in 2014, have brought the relations between the EU and Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to a new level. These agreements aim at strengthened political association and economic integration. They constitute a plan of reforms that will bring the partner countries closer to the EU by aligning their legislation and standards to those of the EU, and improve peoples' lives in a tangible way.

A more tailored approach to relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus will help ensure the inclusive nature of the Eastern Partnership. A new agreement is being negotiated with Armenia, whose political and economic cooperation with the EU will take account of Armenia's other international commitments. The EU is also considering entering a closer relationship with Azerbaijan, to better reflect our respective interests and values. With Belarus, the EU is deepening its critical engagement in carefully calibrated mutual steps.

Multilateral cooperation

Many of the challenges partner countries face are shared ones. Addressing them collectively contributes to the stability and prosperity of the region, promotes cooperation and the exchange of best practice between these countries. Multilateral cooperation enables partner countries to work together on issues across the borders such as:

  • democracy, good governance and stability
  • sustainable economic development
  • energy security
  • people-to-people contacts.

This work is based on four thematic platforms, supported by various expert panels and a number of flagship initiatives .

There are four Eastern Partnership main priority areas:

Strengthening of institutions and good governance

The aim is to help partners develop greater resilience in facing the challenges to their stability. Particular priorities are:

  • the rule of law and an independent judiciary
  • preventing and tackling corruption
  • reforming public administration
  • developing an integrated approach to border management
  • cooperating with interested partner countries on CSDP matters
  • civil protection and disaster management.

Mobility and people-to-people contacts

The enhanced mobility of citizens within a secure and well-managed environment

  • Moldova - citizens holding biometric passports can travel visa-free to the Schengen area since April 2014.
  • Georgia and  Ukraine - the European Commission has recommended introduction of the visa free regime with the Schengen area.
  • Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements in place with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, allowing for more affordable visas and simpler application. Negotiations of a similar agreement with Belarus are in final stages.

Market opportunities

The Association Agreements/Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (AA/DCFTAs) provide for a number of actions and instruments meant to boost the trade between EU and the partner countries concerned. For Georgia and Moldova trade with the EU registered increasing trends following the provisional application of the free trade areas. In Ukraine the provisional application of the free trade area started from January 2016.

Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine benefit from the EU's DCFTA Facility, focussed on support to small and medium businesses in adapting to the new requirements and increase their exchanges with the EU.

The EU aims at promoting sustainable and inclusive economic development in the partner countries by improving the business environment and legal certainty. This benefits both local and European SMEs and businesses, raises their competitiveness, and attracts investment. The EU has also opened its programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME) to participation by partner countries. Moldova is already a full participant, with Ukraine and Armenia following soon.

The EU also aims at promoting the economic opportunities deriving from the green economy and the cooperation towards preserving the environment through a sustainable use of the resources and for preventing climate change.

A new area of cooperation was started in November 2015 aimed at harmonising the Digital Markets between partner countries and the EU.

Interconnections

Improving energy security, including energy infrastructure and enhancing the energy efficiency is central to EU cooperation. Examples are:

  • new electricity and gas connections between Romania & Moldova.
  • the Southern Gas Corridor, made possible by Azerbaijan & other countries.

The Eastern Partnership transport network means to facilitate and improve connections by road, train, sea or plane between the EU and the partner countries, increasing the sustainability and the safety of all transport modes.

Financial cooperation

Partner countries have so far benefited from €3.2bn of EU funded programmes.

2014-2020 - the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), the main source of funding for the European Neighbourhood Policy (including the Eastern Partnership), replaces the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI).

2014 saw a major budgetary contribution to help stabilise Ukraine’s economy . The EU planned new investments in Georgia and Moldova to help small businesses. It worked to make loan-financing more accessible to private investors, including small ones.

In 2015, an amount of €146.7 million were dedicated only to regional programmes, such as:

- Council of Europe Partnership and Cooperation Framework on Rule of Law

- Integrated Border Management Flagship and EUBAM

- Civil Society Facility and Support to European Endowment for Democracy

A new Flagship Initiative on Sustainable Municipal Development was launched, while important financial support was approved for continuing the Environment and the Energy governance Flagship Initiatives.

Involvement of broader society

Besides governments, the Eastern Partnership involves broader society.