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European Union External Action

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, 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.

 

See also:

Eastern Partnership events

 

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.

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:

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 Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) matters.
  • civil protection and disaster management.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Besides governments, the Eastern Partnership involves broader society.

the Eastern Partnership Business Forum harnesses the opinion of business leaders to support commercial links and to take advantage of economic and trade opportunities.

Multilateral cooperation involves:

  • the EU institutions
  • the EU Member States
  • the 6 partner countries.

Besides the continuous bilateral and multilateral political dialogue, technical work is structured on 4 thematic platforms, whose work programmes 2014- 2017 have been revised in order to better reflect the current needs and priorities of the partners.

Current work programmes — 2014-2017:

Platform 1. Democracy, good governance & stability

The Partnership aims to improve governance in public administration, the civil service, the judiciary, management of state borders, combating corruption, elections, asylum and migration, cooperation on the Common Security and Defence Policy, civil protection, police cooperation and cybercrime. In order to fulfil these objectives and provide a space for policy discussion and exchange of best practices in these areas, a series of specific Panels have been established under Platform 1:

  • Administrative Reform - aims at fostering cooperation with partners to make public administration more effective, improve civil service integrity and develop e-governance and data protection capacities. It also aims to promote local democracy, focusing on building support for reforms and receiving capacity for foreign assistance projects, sharing reform practices & analysing the main obstacles to sectoral reforms.
  • Integrated Border Management - in order to help share best practices, strengthen cooperation between customs and border services and develop the Eastern Partnership IBM Flagship Initiative
  • Justice - the Panel serves to facilitate exchange of information and best practices in the field of the judiciary so as to promote adherence to European standards. It als contributes to bilateral reform benchmarks agreed in Action Plans or Association Agendas with Partner Countries.
  • Fight Against Corruption - to help share information and best practices on how to best build integrity, prevent and prosecute corruption, and meet international standards, especially those enshrined in relevant Council of Europe & UN conventions. 
  • Migration and Asylum – which serves topursue dialogue and cooperation in the framework of the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) and assit Partner Countries in meeting the agreed reforms in bilateral Action Plans and Association Agendas.
  • Common Security and Defense – to develop a dialogue on political and practical aspects of participation by interested partner countries in EU CSDP missions and operations. The Panel on CSDP also facilitates implementation of the bilateral Framework Participation Agreements.

Platform 2. Economic integration & convergence with EU policies

This platform's work focuses on smart, sustainable and inclusive development of a free-market economy. The goal is a modern, social and environment-friendly economy that provides jobs and growth.  Under this platform, several dedicated Panels were set up:

  • Transport – the aim is to improve connections between the EU and its partners. It helps partners to:
  • prepare and implement infrastructure projects (Eastern Partnership transport network)
  • share best practice on innovative infrastructure financing, efficient traffic management systems and increased transport safety and security.
  • Small & Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) - cooperation focuses on applying EU best practices to achieve sustainable economic development.

The EU funds various projects supporting small businesses in the region.  The Eastern Partnership Business Forum strengthens contacts between businesses and cooperation between small firms. Increasingly, partner countries participate in the Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME)

  • Environment & climate change– offers opportunity to obtain information on the specific acquis and exchange best practice on its implementation. Climate change discussions favour closer cooperation on global climate negotiations. Collecting, sharing and using data to design and implement environmental policy is another focus of cooperation.
  • Trade & related regulatory cooperation - focuses on quality control and certification for the goods and services; on animal and plant health measures; on customs – facilitation of circulation of legally traded goods.
  • Agriculture & rural development - uses the EU countries' experience with helping develop and implement modern, viable, sustainable farming and rural development strategies.
  • Statistics – the aim is to provide data as a basis for good governance and decision-making and the monitoring of the policies implemented.
  • Harmonisation of Digital Markets - this new Panel has started its activity aimed at enabling individuals and businesses, irrespective of their nationality or place of residence, to exercise online activities seamlessly, under fair competition and with a high level of consumer and personal data protection. Harmonised digital markets will foster better online services at better prices, offer more choice and boost employment. Existing companies will be able to grow faster and start-ups will be created more easily within a pan-European digital market. The Panel has adopted an ambitious Action Plan PDF icon whose implementation is foreseen over the next couple of years, including sharing infrastructure for electronic communication networks, e-Signature and e-Government. (link to attached pdf doc action plan)

Platform 3. Energy security

Under the Energy Security platform, multilateral cooperation addresses issues such as:

  • Developing electricity, gas and oil interconnections helps integrate European energy markets. The advantages are:
  • more diverse energy supply sources & transit routes, with increased resilience at both national and regional level;
  • greater competitiveness
  • a more secure energy supply overall
  • better integration of variable renewable energy sources into the energy system.
  • Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources improve energy security by reducing dependence on imported fossil fuels and moving towards a low-carbon economy. However, integrating variable sources of renewable energy means adapting generation, transmission and distribution systems.
  • Establishing and strengthening a regulatory framework for nuclear safety is important to the EU and its partners. Activities offer partner countries the opportunity to participate in nuclear safety stress tests, while being updated by EU experts on developments and legal initiatives relating to nuclear safety and radioactive waste management.

Platform 4. People-to-people contacts

This platform involves students, teachers, researchers, young people, artists and arts professionals. The key aims are to:

  • boost partner countries' participation in EU international cooperation programmes
  • improve their capacity to reform
  • boost cooperation
  • share good practice between education and training authorities, higher education and research institutions, and the youth or arts organisations of the EU and its partners.
  • Platform 4 complements bilateral agreements and action (e.g. association agreements and agendas) and various EU international cooperation programmes on education and youth (Erasmus+), culture and the media (Creative Europe) and research and innovation (Horizon 2020 and Marie Skłodowska-Curie).
  • Since 2014, Erasmus+ has made education, training, youth and sports activities available. E-twinning programmes for schools and support from the European Training Foundation are available for vocational education and training.
  • The arts and audiovisual sector has benefited from the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme (I and II). Participation in 'Creative Europe' and the 'Study' facility helps promote cooperation among artists and arts professionals, and promotes policy development in partner countries.
  • Eastern European researchers and research organisations are now participating more in research and innovation. The Panel on Research and Innovation boosts and streamlines the cooperation in the area of research and innovation, including EU and partner countries` policies and programmes (e.g. Horizon 2020, Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions), The Panel has agreed on collaborative research activities in three societal challenges: Health, demographic change and well-being; Climate action and environment; Secure, clean and efficient energy.
  • Regional cooperation on e-infrastructure in research and education networking (E@PConnect) is underway with a view to stepping up scientific cooperation between the EU and its partners.

For more information on past activities of the Multilateral Platforms you may wish to also consult their previous work programmes 2012-2013

  1. Democracy, good governance & stability PDF icon
  2. Economic integration & convergence with EU policies PDF icon
  3. Energy security PDF icon
  4. Contacts between people PDF icon
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