In the Eastern Partnership, the EU fosters and intensifies its political, economic, cultural and intersocietal relations with its neighbours Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine on the basis of shared values and supports the transformation towards consolidating democracy, the rule of law and a free market economy in the partner countries. The form of cooperation can vary depending on the partner countries’ interests and ambitions and on how willing they are to undertake reforms. The Eastern Partnership also fosters the countries’ relations with one another
Key aspects of the Eastern Partnership
Germany and the EU have a particular interest in developments in their immediate neighbourhood. Under the European Neighbourhood Policy the EU thus promotes political and economic reforms in its neighbouring countries aimed at strengthening stability, democracy and prosperity. It also fosters closer political, economic and people-to-people relations between these countries and the EU and relations among the countries themselves.
The Eastern Partnership was set up specifically for the EU’s eastern neighbours (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) at a summit in Prague on 7 May 2009. Since then, it has formed the foundation for the partner countries’ bilateral relations with the EU, as well as for multilateral relations between the EU and its 28 Member States and the six partner countries. The European Neighbourhood Policy and thus the Eastern Partnership are part of the EU’s foreign policy and therefore separate from accession policy.
The Eastern Partnership provides a framework for supporting the EU’s eastern partners on the basis of shared values on their path to becoming democratic societies based on the rule of law and market economy principles. The Eastern Partnership promotes a reform course by the partner governments and offers EU support that gives additional impetus to their political, economic and social transformation.
Association agreements have been signed at bilateral level with the partner countries Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, while an enhanced partnership agreement has been concluded with Armenia. The latter was signed on the margins of the Eastern Partnership summit on 24 November 2017. A new agreement is currently being negotiated with Azerbaijan. Belarus is the only country with which a framework agreement has not yet been concluded.
At multilateral level, four thematic platforms and a large number of programmes and projects associated with them address topics of mutual interest to all partner countries, thus facilitating the exchange of experiences and cooperation between them.
At the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga on 21 and 22 May 2015, four priority areas for cooperation were identified, which were confirmed at the Summit held in Brussels on 24 November 2017: (1) good governance, (2) economic development (3) connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change, as well as (4) mobility and people-to-people contacts.
Unimpeded people-to-people contacts are a key element of functioning neighbourly relations, regardless of whether these contacts are in business, science and research, involve collaboration on projects between civil society organisations or take place in the private sphere. That is why visa liberalisation is one of the Eastern Partnership’s long-term goals. In a gradual process, the EU is helping its partners to create the necessary conditions for safe, well-organised travel. These conditions are laid down in action plans on easing visa requirements. After the conditions have been met, citizens of the partner countries will not require a visa for the EU, that is, holders of biometric passports will be able to stay in the EU for up to three months without a visa. Visa requirements were eased on 28 April 2014 for the Republic of Moldova, on 28 March 2017 for Georgia and on 11 June 2017 for Ukraine. The EU continues to monitor the ongoing fulfilment of the necessary standards after visa requirements have been eased. In cases of severe deviations, visa requirements may be reintroduced. Visa facilitation agreements are in place with Armenia and Azerbaijan. As a result, visitors from these partner countries can enjoy a host of technical benefits, including lower visa fees and the option to schedule appointments online. Visa facilitation and readmission agreements are currently being negotiated with Belarus.
May 2019 – the tenth anniversary of the Eastern Partnership
The Eastern Partnership will celebrate its tenth anniversary in May 2019. This milestone will be marked with various celebrations and activities on the part of the EU institutions, Member States and partner countries The celebrations will focus on events in Brussels on 13 and 14 May 2019, in particular the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers with the Foreign Ministers of the six partner countries on 13 May, chaired by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, and a high-level anniversary conference on 14 May hosted by President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.
This anniversary represents a special opportunity to take stock of the past ten years, and also to reflect on the further development of the Eastern Partnership.
How does the Eastern Partnership work?
The Eastern Partnership is the most ambitious offer of cooperation under the European Neighbourhood Policy. It offers an opportunity to conclude comprehensive association agreements with the EU that also include the establishment of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA). In 2014, the EU signed Association Agreements with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova have been in force since 1 July 2016. The agreement with Ukraine entered into force on 1 September 2017. As regards the countries that are not seeking EU association, the EU is endeavouring to intensify its bilateral relations and to put them on a new footing. To this end, the current and partly outdated Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) with the partner countries are to be replaced by extended framework agreements. The negotiations with Armenia on a new framework agreement were concluded on 27 February 2017 and the agreement was signed on 24 November 2017. Talks on the same type of framework agreement began with Azerbaijan in early February 2017.
At the same time, the Eastern Partnership aims to promote enhanced cooperation between all the partners. This project-related cooperation focuses primarily on the following areas: (1) democracy and good governance; (2) economic development; (3) connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change and (4) mobility and people-to-people contacts. Platforms have been set up to this end, allowing projects in these areas to be discussed and agreed upon and in which all EU and partner countries may participate, often in cooperation with international organisations (such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe) or non-governmental organisations. It is envisaged that third countries will also be eligible to participate on a case-by-case basis. The range of existing projects stretches from promoting small and medium-sized enterprises to school partnerships via the internet to disaster risk reduction.
Who steers the Eastern Partnership?
Meetings of Eastern Partnership Heads of State and Government take place every two years and are the forum for steering the political process. Following the founding summit in Prague in 2009, the second summit, which was held in Warsaw on 29 and 30 September 2011, primarily concentrated on how to take the Eastern Partnership forward. Among other things, it agreed on enhanced cooperation in the economic and trade spheres. Lithuania hosted the third Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on 28 and 29 November 2013, at which the association agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine were initialled. At the summit in Riga on 21 and 22 May 2015, all participants reaffirmed their commitment to the Eastern Partnership and to intensifying relations, particularly in view of the Ukraine crisis. At the same time, the principle of differentiation was underscored. This means that relations are tailored to the various partner countries.
The fifth Eastern Partnership summit took place in Brussels on 24 November 2017. The key areas defined in Riga, that is, good governance, market opportunities, mobility/people-to-people contacts and interconnectivity, were intensified at this summit. The European External Action Service and the European Commission have defined aims for each of these four areas to be achieved by 2020 (20 Deliverables for 2020). Further key issues have included implementation of the agreed reforms by the partner countries, improvement of the partner countries’ resilience and improved communication in the Eastern Partnership.
In addition to the summits, meetings of the Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers are held annually. Moreover, regular direct exchanges are held between other ministers on a more frequent basis, such as meetings of the Eastern Partnership Environment, Justice and Home Affairs Ministers.
The German Government is particularly keen for civil society in the partner countries to receive continued support and develop closer links with NGOs in the EU. The Eastern Partnership’s Civil Society Forum meets annually and is closely involved in the work of the four multilateral platforms. The partner countries have also set up national civil society platforms. In November 2010, Berlin hosted the Second Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, which brought together over 200 representatives of civil society organisations from across the EU and from partner countries.
Documents on the Eastern Partnership
Extensive information can be found on the following EU pages:
• The European Neighbourhood Policy at the European Commission
• Financing the ENP
• The Eastern Partnership on the website of the European External Action Service