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The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a joint initiative involving the EU, its Member States and six Eastern European Partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. It is a specific dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
The Eastern Partnership aims at building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity, stability and increased cooperation. Additionally, bonds forged through the Eastern Partnership help strengthening state and societal resilience: it makes both the EU and the partners stronger and better able to deal with internal and external challenges.
Heads of state or government from the EU member states and the six Eastern Partner countries 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. The upcoming Summit will be held in Brussels on 24 November, preceded by a number of side events.
Besides governments, the Eastern Partnership also involves broader society :
The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was developed as a framework for relations with the EU's neighbouring countries in 2004. The Eastern Partnership (EaP) was established as a specific Eastern dimension of the ENP, which contains both a bilateral and multilateral track. It was launched at the Prague Summit in 2009. Since then, the Eastern Partnership has evolved; the substance of the policy has broadened, deepened and been adapted to changing realities. The latest important policy developments are guided by the 2015 review of the ENP and the 2016 EU Global Strategy. Both call to focus on achieving the goal of increasing stabilisation and resilience of the EU's neighbours.
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. Bilateral relations are based on differentiation whilst the multilateral EaP structure offers an inclusive framework involving all six partner countries. Please find a brief overview below.
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 liberalization that has 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. For more information see the 2017 report on the implementation of the 2015 ENP review. Concretely, a new 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.
Eastern Partnership engagement is focused on the four priority areas of cooperation, agreed at the 2015 Riga Summit: stronger governance: strengthening of institutions and good governance; stronger economy: economic development and market opportunities; better connectivity: interconnectivity; mobility and stronger society: people-to-people contacts. Discussions in EaP multilateral Platforms and Panels, where all six partners and EU Member states participate, help exchange best practices across these areas and develop regional cooperation.
In the period of 2014-2020 - the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) is the key EU financial instrument for cooperation with the Eastern Partnership. Between 2014 and 2017, Partner Countries have already benefited from an overall of €2.8 billion of EU funds.
To ensure implementation of EaP policy priorities, the new Multiannual Assistance Frameworks for the period 2017/2018-2020 have been designed in an inclusive manner between the EU, its Member States and the six Partner Countries. Functioning as work plans guiding the actions until 2020, they cover the four priority areas of the Eastern Partnership.
Tangible results for citizens are at the centre of EU engagement within the Eastern Partnership. The pursuit of tangible results has resulted in 20 deliverables of Eastern Partnership cooperation for 2020. These were developed in close consultation with all the stakeholders. Some of the most important deliverables include:
A so-called joint working document "Eastern Partnership – focusing on key priorities and deliverables" drafted by the Commission and EEAS details the objectives across the five priority areas of cooperation agreed at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga in 2015:
Strengthened institutions and good governance are important preconditions for economic growth and societal resilience. Improving governance, strengthening of electoral systems, reforming the justice sector, fighting corruption, strengthening security cooperation – notably to disrupt organised crime – supporting conflict resolution, crisis prevention, civil protection against new threats and cybersecurity are key elements for citizen's trust in their state and a fairer society. Furthermore, enhanced cooperation in the area of security will make the EU and its Eastern Partners better equipped to protect their citizens.
In the area of economic development and market opportunities the 20 Deliverables for 2020 will aim to create more and better jobs and higher incomes, notably by improving the business environment. The EU will support its Eastern Partners in moving towards diversified, sustainable and modern economies, to create jobs in new sectors, attract investments and support macroeconomic stability, to drive the economic transition process forward and to improve the capacity of Partner Countries to take advantage of the trade opportunities with the EU and among each other.
Better connectivity, energy efficiency, measures to preserve the environment and reduce climate change will further bolster the resilience of Partner Countries. Better transport links will support trade and travel by citizens. Energy interconnections and enhanced energy efficiency will strengthen energy security and open new opportunities for economic development. Enhanced climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts help Partner Countries to develop more efficient economies while becoming less vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change and improving the quality of life.
Enabling easier and more frequent exchanges among citizens is central in the field of mobility and people-to-people contacts. Mobility and multi-faceted contacts between societies, including visa liberalisation, in a secure and well managed environment offer opportunities to learn from best practices in other countries. Particular efforts will be made to invest in youth as an investment in the future by supporting and empowering the young generation, specifically in terms of developing their skills and fostering their employability.
A structured engagement with a wider range of civil society organisations, furthering gender equality and non-discrimination, as well as better, clearer and tailor-made strategic communications will be pursued as horizontal elements relevant for all four Eastern Partnership priority areas.
While Partner Countries have different characteristics and diverse ambitions in their engagement with the EU, they also share important opportunities and challenges. In order to address these common elements, the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership complements the EU's bilateral activities. It does so typically in areas which specifically require a transnational approach – e.g. border management, environment and climate change, migration or disaster prevention. At the same time, multilateral cooperation enables the exchange of best practices in areas such as the fight against corruption. The multilateral framework is aimed at fostering links and regional cooperation among partner countries and between them and the EU Member States.
Policy issues in our main areas of cooperation are discusses in four thematic platforms. The platforms and the panels under them allow for target-oriented sessions with open discussions between stakeholders. A more detailed overview per platform is given below:
The Platform 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. Furthermore, a series of specific Panels have been established under Platform 1:
Platform 2 aims at economic integration between partner countries and between them and the EU, as well as their convergence with relevant EU policies based on multilateral cooperation. Activities of Platform 2 and the corresponding Panels contribute to the smart, sustainable and inclusive development of a free market economy in Partner Countries. Designing policies for modern, social and environment-friendly economies provide jobs and growth and thus increase resilience and stability. The following Panels have been established under Platform 2:
The Energy Security Platform aims at enhancing cooperation between the EU and partners in the strategic field of energy security, with the financial support of the EU4Energy initiative. More specifically, its core objectives are:
This platform aims to create strong people-to-people contacts between the EU and the Partner Countries and between the Partner Countries themselves. Therefore, the platform works to increase participation of EaP Countries in EU programmes in the fields of education, research, innovation, youth, culture and creativity as well as information society. It also aims to foster cooperation between the EU and its partners' education and training authorities, higher education institutions, schools, research institutions, youth organisations, cultural organizations, etc. It also seeks to contribute to partners' capacity to implement policies in these areas and to enhance knowledge and exchange good practices amongst EU and Eastern partner stakeholders in these fields.
Panel on Research and Innovation – aims to boost and streamline 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).
For more information on past activities of the Multilateral Platforms you may wish to also consult their current 2014-201 work programmes below.
Current work programmes — 2014-2017: