The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is an open cooperation between the European Union (EU) and six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The authors of this programme are Poland and Sweden.
The intention behind establishing the EaP has been building closer relations and fostering collaboration among countries in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. The EaP core objectives are to form a political association, establish and develop a free trade area, and remove visa regime.
The EaP delivers new quality of relations between the EU and its partners included in the integration programme – participating would satisfy the countries interested in a sole cooperation improvement as well as full integration.
The Eastern Partnership was established at the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit on May 7, 2009, but the origins of the programme goes to a concept defining a project strengthening relations with the EU’s eastern neighbors within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) introduced by Poland and Sweden in May 2008.
The European Union initiated the programme of the Eastern Partnership in order to intensify relations with the EU’s eastern neighbors. The primary objective was to initiate a programme without the limitations of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which formula was restricting enhancement of the cooperation with countries in the east. A new approach to the countries in the Eastern Europe region and the South Caucasus was necessary. The Visegrad Group jointly accentuated the need of initiating such a programme, together with Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. While holding the European Presidency in the first half of 2007, also Germany served a substantial role in launching the programme, introducing a concept of “ENP Plus”. In addition, France’s switch of its foreign policy direction and forming the Union for the Mediterranean supported implementation of the project. Within the European Union itself, there was growing awareness of challenges and threats existing in the countries of Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus.
A process of forming the Eastern Partnership was accelerated by the conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008. Notwithstanding the difference in opinions on the Russian Federation and its aspirations towards establishing its sphere of influence, the European Union’s countries recognized the direct impact of potential political and economic destabilization, and unresolved conflict in its nearby neighborhood upon Europe.
Owing to a participation of Sweden in modernization of the European Union’s policy towards its eastern neighbors, the new member countries became not the only ones interested in this region. Also, during its presidency in the first half of 2009, the Czech Republic contributed to an establishment of the Eastern Partnership substantially through giving it a high priority.
The European Commission’s (EC) proposal included creating five flagship initiatives of top priority within the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership. The success depends on a level of commitment shown by the partner countries’ governments, and the European Union’s financial support. The EC designated separate funding within the EaP’s budget for the flagship initiatives.
The “flagship initiatives” are:
budget: EUR 44.5 million
inauguration date: 15.09.2009
in its framework a series of training and pilot projects was approved, i.a. demarcation of the Belarus-Ukraine border, creating an electronic system for information exchange between customs services of Belarus and Ukraine, equipping border crossing points in Bavra and Bagratashen (Moldova-Ukraine border);
budget: EUR 57 million
the three element initiative:
budget: EUR 41 million
the four element initiative:
budget: EUR 12 million
promoting protection of the environment, stimulating the process of environment management – increasing availability of reliable information about environment protection, rising awareness
the two element initiative:
budget: 12 million EUR
two phases of implementation:
The implementation of the Eastern Partnership programme aims at forging a closer relationship between the European Union and its partner countries. A framework for multilateral cooperation containing four thematic platforms serves this need:
Democracy, good governance and stability – issues such as election standards, media freedom, fight against corruption, reforming civil service, cooperation on judicial system and law enforcement, security, etc.;
Economic integration and convergence with EU Policies – issues such as standardization of market and trade solutions, socio-economic development, fight against poverty and social exclusion, health care, environment and climatic changes;
Energy security – integration of electricity policies in accordance with the European Union’s standards, (re)building basic energy infrastructure, support for the Southern energy corridor (expanding the Odessa-Brody pipeline);
Contacts between people – issues such as cultural cooperation, support for non-governmental organizations and civil societies, educational exchange of students and pupils, and integrating partner countries within The European Research Area and joint media projects;
Funding the EaP actions comes from several sources. The major part is provided by the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI), addressing also other countries neighboring the EU. Almost EUR 4 billion out of EUR 12 billion ENPI budget were allocated to developing cooperation with extern neighbors in the period 2007-2013 (EUR 1.9 billion for the period 2010-2013).
At the implementation moment, the EaP programme was given an additional sum of 600 million EUR from the EU. It included EUR 250 million assigned to the regional cooperation development within the European Neighbourhood Policy, and a supplementary envelope of EUR 350 million from the ENPI’s sources.
The European Commission is a disposer of the EAP project’s funding.
Financing the EaP programme would depend on a profile of each financial project. The funds would be administered within a framework of three institutions:
Comprehensive Institutional Building (CIB) is orientated toward institutional effectiveness and compatibility with the EU’s law of the countries within the programme. These objectives would be achieved through programs such as Twinning and TAIEX, and, additionally, internships and staff interchanges among sister institutions in EU’s countries, grants and scholarships. The intended recipients of the fund would be institutions of public administration from partner states and EU members and institutions involved in trainings and other institutional reforms.
The implementation of CIB is due in 2011. Within the programme, the spending accounts for EUR 32.81 million in Armenia, EUR 19.2 million in Azerbaijan, EUR 30.86 million in Georgia, EUR 41.16 million in Moldova, and EUR 43.37 million in Ukraine. For a separate programme regarding Belarus – Joint Interim Plan – there was an allocation of EUR 5.88 million for the period of 2011-2013. Total budget amounts to EUR 175 million.
Pilot Regional Development Programmes – based on EU cohesion policy experience, is currently being launched in reference to EaP countries, and is aimed at erasing distinctions between respective regions considering local needs and territorial specific. The implementation will be achieved through developing and supporting local infrastructure, human capital and small to medium business in the most underdeveloped regions of the partner states.
At the present time the European Commission is preparing for open talks with the partner countries about conditions applying to the programme. The implementation of the Pilot Regional Development Programme s is due in 2012. Within this programme, the spending accounts for EUR 7.12 million in Armenia, EUR 9.29 million in Azerbaijan, EUR 10.38 million in Belarus, EUR 7.43 million in Georgia, EUR 6.98 million in Moldova, and EUR 30.79 million in Ukraine. Total budget amounts to EUR 75 million.
The multilateral dimension accounts for EUR 350 million granted for the benefit of EaP, including EUR 160 million for the six flagship initiatives of the EaP. A minor part of the funds should finance the activities of the thematic platforms and the Civil Society Forum.
The Eastern Partnership Funding
Complex Institutional Development
Regional Development Programmes
EUR 175 mln
EUR 75 mln
EUR 350 mln
Sources Indicative Allocation 2010 – 2013
EUR 85 mln
EUR 110 mln
EUR 175 mln
EUR 230 mln
EUR 600 mln
The Eastern Partnership’s objectives do not include an accession opening to six EaP partner states. The European Union focuses on supporting comprehensive reforms integrating local standards with the EU norms regarding economy, public administration, good governing practice, development of non-governmental sector, cross-border cooperation, or ecology. In the long term, effective EaP-inspired reforms will ease the partner countries’ future accession, although it is not a key objective of the programme.
A bilateral character of the Eastern Partnership, including relations between EU and partner states, induces actions which lead to:
signing Association Agreements
Agreements between the EU and third countries with the aim of setting up a framework to conduct closer bilateral relations regarding foreign and safety policy, rule of law and human rights, economy and sector cooperation, and culture. Moreover, they mobilize to raise standards in order to integrate them with EU norms. Such agreements would replace those ruling from the end of the ‘90s and defining partnership and cooperation, which excluded Belarus so far.
Based on these criteria, the European Union has been discussed Association Agreements with Ukraine (since 2007, the negotiations has been going on – no conclusion was reached in 2010). Diplomatic dialogues are open with other partners, excluding Belarus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia since July, 2010, and Moldova since January, 2011).
facilitating visa regime and lifting them in the longer term (visa dialogue)
For the first time, in the Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit, removing visa regime became a major objective of the EU policy toward EaP partner countries. So far, Ukraine and Moldova achieved the highest level of cooperation concerning this issue – an official dialogue with Ukraine has been held since February, 2008, and Moldova – since June, 2010. Both countries adopt the Action Plan on visa liberalization (Ukraine in November, 2010, Moldova in February, 2011). In a case of countries of the South Caucasus, the EU-Georgia relations include an agreement on visa facilitations (Ukraine and Georgia reached such an agreement in2008) and Armenia entered an initial phase of negotiations. There is a lack of information about Azerbaijani and Belarusian situation.
creating Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement
Such an agreement, being a part of the actual association agreement, is negotiated separately, and formulates rules for free trade areas. Aside from lifting and trade contingents, it also requires deeper integration of the trade law in partner states in compliance with the EU standards (acquis communautaire).
A precondition for starting negotiations requires the World Trade Organization membership; therefore Azerbaijan and Belarus are excluded formally. Ukraine is engaged in a technical dialogue since February 2010, and Moldova begun negotiations in the end of 2010.
building multilateral cooperation structures
The goal of the EaP is to create a framework for multilateral cooperation between the EU and partner states, and the partner states themselves. There are several cooperation-orientated EaP institutions, i.a.
EaP summits – meeting of heads of states and governments of all member and partner countries defining general lines of its development are held every two years; the first one took place in Prague in May 2009, the next in Budapest in May 2011
meetings of foreign minister – annual gatherings reviewing the cooperation within the framework of four governmental platforms
cooperation within the framework of four governmental platforms – meetings twice a year:
Democracy, good governance and stability;
Economic integration and convergence with EU sectoral policies;
Contacts between people;
The Eastern Partnership Parliamentary Assembly –Euronest – has a task of providing a forum for dialogue between the partner states’ legislative branches and the European Parliament.
Euronest gathers 120 representatives – 60 of the European Parliament and 10 from each of six partner states’ parliaments. In the future, regular meetings will provide a place for planning the EaP’s strategy and monitoring the programme implementation.
The official launch of Euronest is being constantly postponed due to a problem with the Belarusian deputation. The European Union cannot decide whether Belarus should be represented by the members of parliament subject to the regime or representatives of the Belarusian opposition. At present there is no precise information about an opening session date.
The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is the official Policy of the European Union toward its neighbouring countries.
Formulating a coherent policy toward the neighbours of the EU after its enlargement was initiated in 2002. A year later the European Commission launched a project called “Wider Europe”. A whole concept describing an overall comprehensive vision of the EU engagement in neighbouring countries was introduced in the Strategy Paper on the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2004.
In the EPS’s range there are 16 countries from Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and the South Mediterranean area, including Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian National Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. The EU signed with the Russian Federation, who did not accept an invitation to the EPS, a separate agreement on strategic partnership regulating cooperation between both sides.
The ENP’s objectives are based on bilateral relations between the EU and each neighbouring country. Over time, within the EU’s neighbour policy new programs were established, targeting regional country groups: the Union for the Mediterranean (2008), the Black Sea Synergy (2008) and the Eastern Partnership (2009). In an official document there is a statement that the ENP does not provide any assistance in the accession process, instead its objectives are strengthening the security, stability and prosperity of the UE’s countries and its neighbours, and avoiding the emergence of dividing lines in Europe. The EU offers deeper political and economic integration, and more people-to-people contacts.
The ENP’s new tool is Action Plans of 3 to 5 years which are prepared for each country individually and must be accepted by both the EU and the government of the country in question. The Action Plans contain envisaged reforms agreed by EU and neighbouring countries.
The European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) is an European Neighbourhood Policy’s major financial instrument, which main objective is to finance cooperation programs and relation development with EU neighbour countries (including Russia, Libya, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia).
ENPI was initiated in January 2007 as a replacement for the former programs such as MEDA (the Mediterranean countries) and TACIS (countries belonging to The Commonwealth of Independent States). The objectives are focused on developing EU relations with countries within the programme, supporting reforms and creating a common platform of values, stability and prosperity through cooperation and close economic and regional integration.
The ENPI goal is to encourage the partner countries to promote a “good governance” rule and a well balanced socio-economic development.
ENPI countries are:
South: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, National Authority, Syria, Tunisia.
East: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia.
The Eastern Partnership programme operates within the European Neighbourhood and is financed by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. The EaP includes only part of the ENP countries and exceeds formal objectives of this association. The EaP aims at building bilateral cooperation and creating new mechanisms for the regional relations between partner countries. Most of all, bilateral cooperation regards two-sided association agreements, developing sector collaboration and facilitating visa regime. The programme serves as platform for implementing complex solutions for the institutional development of the social services in partner states. Building multilateral regional cooperation is based on new mechanisms supporting collaboration between the EU and all EaP countries, as well as individual countries themselves. Moreover, the EaP programme creates space for networking for civil society organization in both UE countries and partner states.
Belarus is one of the six countries participating in the Eastern Partnership programme, but the current state of affairs between Belarus and the European Union is complicated which casts doubt whether there is a real sense of Belarus function within the EaP.
For 17 years the presidential regime has been criticized constantly for a lack of democracy, freedom of speech and economic reforms by the EU structures. Even if Lukashenko’s Belarus is a beneficiary of the EU financial support, targeting the border policy, administration improvement, and ecology specifically, its engagement in a political dialogue required within the framework of bilateral relations between the EU and the rest of the EaP countries is void, which leads to a series of complications regarding institutional development of the EaP, including EURONEST (see 9.).
Brussels constant accentuation of the fact that the Eastern Partnership is not a project against Russia notwithstanding, Moscow treats this EU programme as a threat to its interests in the partner countries from the very beginning of the EaP existence. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov described the EaP as “an effort to create an EU sphere of influence in the East”. President Dmitry Medvedev stated that “some countries are trying to use this structure as a partnership against Russia”. Aside from these negative declarations, no actions are taken. The EaP alone does not plan to include Russia, which rejects being on the same relationship level as i.e. Georgia or Moldova, within its structure, and the EU eastern neighbour wants to maintain its extraordinary status.
The Eastern Partnership and the Black Sea Synergy are two separate programmes for the EU’s regional cooperation directed toward similar groups of EU’s neighbours which should not be confused. The Black Sea Synergy is a cooperation programme between the European Union and countries in the South Mediterranean region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Hungary, Greece, Russia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine). It was initiated as a consequence of extending EU borders to Hungary and Romania – the countries by the Pontus Euxinus (“The Hospitable See” – an ancient name for the Black See). The goal of the Black Sea Synergy is to channel transformations toward democratization and market economy, especially by addressing issues such as regional conflicts, transport, energy, environment protection, fishery, migrations, fight against organized crime, information society, cultural cooperation, and support for civil society development.