2013 is expected to be a significant year for the Eastern Partnership. Ahead of the summit in November, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Štefan Füle together with foreign ministers of Visegrad countries met foreign ministers from the Partnership countries in Krakow on 17 May to discuss progress towards key milestones.
The Eastern Partnership was created to strengthen ties with six countries to the east of the EU: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. It is based on a commitment to international law and fundamental values, such as democracy and respect for human rights. The November summit in Vilnius will come four years after the launch of the Eastern Partnership, and will be an opportunity to take stock of progress in areas such as mobility and internal reforms. Hopefully the summit will also bring new momentum to the relationship, provided there is sufficient progress also on the side of the Eastern partners.
In Vilnius the EU is hoping to see the signature of the Association Agreement with Ukraine, provided the benchmarks set in December 2012 are met. The EU also wants to see the finalisation of negotiations on Association Agreements, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas, with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia which could lead to the initialling of the Association Agreements by Vilnius. Furthermore the EU hopes to conclude Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan by the time of the Summit. And the offer to negotiate similar agreements with Belarus remains on the table.
Once new agreements have been signed, implementation will follow, making political association and economic integration irreversible and enhancing relations between the EU and its partners.
At the end of the meeting in Krakow HRVP Ashton said: "In Krakow we confirmed our commitment to our Eastern Partners and expressed our aspirations for a successful summit to be hosted in Vilnius later this year. It is really important to ensure that we continue to work closely together to ensure that our partners to the East see the strength of our commitment to them, our belief that they should have a strong and deep relationship with the European Union. I hope that the Vilnius summit will be successful and will give us opportunity to move forward with all the agreements. But it depends on the commitment and willingness of our partners to the East to address the open issues."
The EU will continue to encourage and support the partners in the run-up to the Vilnius summit. All foreign ministers of the EU will meet the foreign ministers of the Eastern partners in July of this year to assess the progress and prepare the Vilnius summit.