The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a policy initiative that aims to bring the six Eastern neighbours – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – closer to the EU. It represents the Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) reviewed in 2015 and strengthens bilateral relations between the EU and its partners.
EU Member States and EaP Partner countries share a view that the EaP should to focus on delivering tangible results to citizens. In response, the European Commission and the European External Action Service identified a set of 20 deliverables for 2020, first published in December 2016, which aim to deliver concrete results and step up actions in four key priority areas:
- economic development and market opportunities;
- strengthening institutions and good governance;
- connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change;
- mobility and people-to-people contacts.
The Eastern Partnership was launched at the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit in May 2009 with the ambitious aim of initiating political association and economic integration between the EU and its Eastern Partners. This would imply new Association Agreements (AAs) including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) and gradual integration in the EU economy. It would also allow for easier travel to the EU through gradual visa liberalisation, accompanied by measures to tackle illegal immigration.
How does it work?
The Eastern Partnership four areas of co-operation has a two-track approach.
The bilateral track is designed to foster a closer relationship between the EU and each of the Partner countries.
- EU-Armenia relations
- EU-Azerbaijan relations
- EU-Belarus relations
- EU-Georgia relations
- EU-Moldova relations
- EU-Ukraine relations
The multilateral track provides a new framework for cooperation and exchange of best practices. Four Eastern Partnership thematic platforms chaired by the European Commission allow for target-oriented sessions and serve for open and free discussions in the following areas:
- Strengthening institutions and good governance
- Economic development and market opportunities
- Connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change
- Mobility and people-to-people contacts
Since its launch, the Eastern Partnership has gone a long way in shaping the agenda of cooperation between the EU and its Eastern Neighbours and providing a solid framework for sharing expertise and best practices. The initiative has given rise to new platforms for dialogue at the government and expert level, as well as in the fields of parliamentary and participatory democracy:
- EuroNest Parliamentary Assembly
- CORLEAP – Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership
Recent Policy Developments
The EU Global Strategy “Shared Vision, Common Action: Stronger Europe” launched in June 2016 outlined EU’s key interests and principles guiding EU’s external action. According to the Strategy, EU’s Foreign and Security Policy will pursue five priorities, three of which are directly pertinent to the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region:
- Security of the Union
- State and Societal Resilience to EU’s East and South
- Integrated Approach to Conflicts
- Cooperative Regional Orders
- Global Governance for the 21st Century
The Communication on the ENP Review (November 2015) mentioned stabilisation, differentiation and ownership as the priorities of the policy towards the neighbourhood.
During the 2017 Brussels Summit the participants recommitted themselves to strengthening democracy, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as principles and norms of international law, which are at the heart of the Eastern Partnership. They confirm the importance of vibrant civil society and gender equality to release the full economic and social potential of their societies, improving economic development and strengthening social cohesion.