Launched at the Prague Summit in 2009, the Eastern Partnership has evolved; the substance of the policy has broadened, deepened and been adapted to changing realities.
The Association Agreements and 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. The agreements aim at strengthened political association and economic integration. They entail significant reforms that aim to bring the Partner Countries closer to the EU by aligning their legislation and standards to the EU ones. Most importantly, they have the objective of improving the lives of citizens in a tangible way. A notable example is the Visa liberalisation that entered into force for Georgia and with Ukraine in 2017 – in addition to the Republic of Moldova in 2014.
As a result of the 2015 review of the ENP, which stressed ownership and differentiation of the policy, a more tailored approach was taken to relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. Concretely, a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement has been negotiated with Armenia, whose political and economic cooperation with the EU will take account of Armenia's other international commitments. The EU is also negotiating a new Framework Agreement with Azerbaijan, to better reflect our respective interests and values. With Belarus, the EU is deepening its critical engagement in carefully calibrated mutual steps.
Over the years, the EaP has been instrumental in bringing the EU and the partner countries closer together. The EaP Summit in November 2017 marked a new approach with the adoption of a common reform agenda titled ’20 deliverables for 2020’. This ambitious work plan focused on delivering tangible results on the ground and improving the lives of people in four main policy areas: (1) stronger economy; (2) stronger governance ; (3) stronger connectivity and (4) stronger society, together with targets for the cross-cutting issues of gender, civil society and strategic communication. Discussions in EaP multilateral Platforms and Panels (more information in the Multilateral cooperation section), where all six partners and EU Member states participate, help exchange best practices across these areas and develop regional cooperation.
The EaP beyond 2020
In 2019, the Eastern Partnership celebrated its 10th anniversary. In this context, the President of the European Commission launched a structured consultation on the future of the Eastern Partnership. The European Council endorsed this approach in June and tasked the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commission to develop a new set of long term policy objectives beyond 2020. The consultation was broad and inclusive. It ended on 31 October 2019 and over 200 contributions were submitted including via a dedicated website. Contributions were received from nearly all Member States, all six partner countries, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Investment Bank, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, international financial institutions, United Nations organisations, and youth stakeholders through the Young European Ambassadors. Contributions were also received from public authorities (international organisations, EU bodies, local and regional governments and state bodies); civil society organisations (including think tanks, academic institutions, civil society partners and business organisations); and individual citizens.
Building on the current agenda of 20 deliverables for 2020, the structured consultation inputs, and extensive consultations in each of the 6 partner countries and many EU Member States, a new set of long-term policy objectives was presented in the Joint Communication “Reinforcing Resilience - an Eastern Partnership that delivers for all”, adopted on 18 March 2020. This document outlines a proposal for long-term policy objectives for the Eastern Partnership beyond 2020 and sets out the measures that aim to strengthen resilience, foster sustainable development and deliver tangible results for society. Together with the Joint Communication, a Joint Staff Working Document contains a summary of the Structured Consultations as well as the latest monitoring report of the 20 deliverables for 2020. A factsheet summarising the Joint Communication is available here.
The Joint Communication was acknowledged by the Council in its Council Conclusions on 11 May 2020. Moreover, the conclusions reaffirmed the strategic importance of the Eastern Partnership, and the joint commitment to building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity and stability. The Council also stressed the importance of the future Eastern Partnership being a more strategic, ambitious, flexible and inclusive framework for cooperation, allowing participants to tackle common and global challenges jointly in a wide range of areas, especially in the unprecedented situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Union stands by Eastern partner countries and has reallocated €80 million for the most immediate needs in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine. In addition, the EU will also redirect the use of existing instruments worth up to €883 million to help mitigate the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. More information on the EU response to COVID-19 is available via this link and in this factsheet.
Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the 6th EaP Summit has been delayed until March 2021. However, to mark the strategic importance of the partnership, also in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, a video conference with the leaders of the EU Member States and EaP partner countries was organised on 18 June 2020, preceded by a Foreign Affairs Ministerial call on 11 June.
In both calls the EU Member States and EaP Partner Countries expressed their mutual support and solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic. They reconfirmed their commitment to the EaP as well as its fundamentals.
Looking to the future, participants welcomed the five policy objectives outlined in the Joint Communciation and Council Conclusions as well as the overarching focus on resilience, as basis for the post 2020 policy framework. Furthermore, the Leaders video conference provided the groundwork to develop a new set of deliverables to be endorsed at the physical Summit next year.
To ensure a broadly streamlined approach, the multi-annual assistance frameworks for the period 2017/2018-2020 are designed in an inclusive manner between the EU, its Member States and the six Partner countries to act as a work plans guiding the actions until 2020, supporting delivering under existing commitments, and allowing for an easier monitoring of progress.
Supporting the comprehensive approach by the EU towards its Eastern partners is the European Neighbourhood Instrument, which is the key EU financial instrument for cooperation with the EaP countries during the period of 2014-2020.
Cooperation then takes place both at bilateral (with individual partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) and at regional level, depending on the nature of the action.
This is then supported through the relevant dialogues, both at bilateral level, such as the Association Council, as well as at multilateral level through thematic Platforms and Panels of the Eastern Partnership.
Eastern neighbours also participate in initiatives open to all Neighbourhood countries – such as Erasmus+, TAIEX, Twining, SIGMA and the Neighbourhood Investment Platform - and in Cross-Border Cooperation programmes.