In this challenging time, marked by the coronavirus outbreak, we can see how important international cooperation is. Over the last decade, the Eastern Partnership has brought concrete benefits for people in the Republic of Moldova and across the European Union’s eastern neighbourhood.
In Moldova, with the support offered to SMEs, the European Union helped create around 6000 new jobs, with the number of companies exporting to the EU increasing by 51%. From a regional perspective, EU initiatives like Mayors for Economic Growth gathered already 40 municipalities all over the country, helping them in the creation of plans to boost local economic development. Over the years, the European Union brought better living conditions to Moldovans with its assistance to the energy sector, with around 200,000 people benefiting from secure and locally produced energy, more than 300 schools, kindergarten, hospitals and community centres connected to biomass heating systems and about 25,000 students being aware of energy resources which are green and renewable. Last but not least, the EU has been active in the civil society sector, with tailored support for people who need it the most. In 2019 alone, about 619 vulnerable persons benefitted free of charge of services and products offered by social enterprises; start-ups and small businesses were created by people with disabilities and new jobs were made available, including for women and youth. The elderly received support via the five centres created in Moldova within the Life Long Learning initiative.
To ensure our partnership continues to deliver in the fast changing world of today, we need to do even more and better. To shape our priorities, we consulted last year with people, businesses, organisations and governments of 33 countries from across our shared region. While there was an appreciation for the results achieved, there was also a clear expectation that we enhance our cooperation when it comes to jobs and prosperity, investments, connectivity, good governance and common challenges such as climate change and the digital transformation.
And now we presented our response to these consultations with long-term objectives for our policy beyond 2020. Our continued engagement with the Eastern Partnership countries remains a key priority for the European Union. Our proposals for the future are ambitious yet achievable. They build on existing cooperation but also identify areas where we need to go further. They are built on fundamental values as the heart of the EU project, such as the rule of law, protection of human rights and fight against corruption.
Concretely, we are proposing to our partners to work together on the following objectives:
Over the past decade, trade between the EU and its eastern partners has nearly doubled. Over 125,000 small and medium-sized businesses have directly benefitted from EU funding, creating or sustaining more than 250,000 jobs. We are better connected thanks to improved transport links and easier access to high capacity broadband. And according to recent surveys, the EU is the most trusted international institution among Eastern Partnership citizens. We will keep this results-oriented approach and look to do much more together in the face of today’s challenges, including when it comes to crises such as COVID-19 pandemic.
And through this we will build an even more ambitious Eastern Partnership that delivers for all and continues to bring our shared continent closer together.