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What is it?
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a joint policy initiative which aims to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union (EU), its Member States and its six Eastern neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
In this framework, guiding the EU's relations with its neighbours is the EU’s Global Strategy and the revised European Neighbourhood Policy which call on the need to focus on increasing the stabilisation and resilience of the EU's Eastern neighbours.
Within this framework, there is a joint commitment to deliver tangible results for citizens across the region. In support of a more results-oriented approach towards the Eastern Partnership, the European Commission and European External Action Service identified 20 key deliverables for 2020. This ambitious workplan was endorsed at the Eastern Partnership Summit which took place in Brussels in November 2017. These commitments by the EU, its Member States and the six Partner countries cover the four main priority areas of the Eastern Partnership:
- Stronger Economy (economic development and market opportunities);
- Stronger Governance (strengthening institutions and good governance);
- Stronger Connectivity (connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change);
- Stronger Society (mobility and people-to-people contacts).
A structured engagement with a wider range of civil society organisations, furthers gender equality and non-discrimination, as well as clearer and tailor-made strategic communications are also being pursued as across all areas.
In September 2018, an internal monitoring was carried out by the European Commission and the EEAS to review the progress achieved under the 20 Deliverables for 2020. This monitiong exercise was carried out again in Spring 2020.
In a wider context, the EaP also supports delivery on key global policy goals set by the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
How does it work?
The overall framework guiding relations between the EU and its six Eastern Partners is provided by the relevant bilateral agreements, such as the Association Agreements, as well as the Association Agendas and the Partnership Priorities and the EaP 20 Deliverables for 2020 aligned along the four key priority areas.
To ensure a broadly streamlined approach, the new multi-annual assistance frameworks for the period 2017/2018-2020 are being designed in an inclusive manner between the EU, its Member States and the six Partner countries to act as a work plans guiding the actions until 2020, supporting delivering under existing commitments, and allowing for an easier monitoring of progress.
Supporting the comprehensive approach by the EU towards its Eastern partners is the European Neighbourhood Instrument, which is the key EU financial instrument for cooperation with the EaP countries during the period of 2014-2020.
This is then supported through the relevant dialogues, both at bilateral level, such as the Association Council, as well as at multilateral level through thematic Platforms and Panels of the Eastern Partnership.
Eastern neighbours also participate in initiatives open to all Neighbourhood countries – such as Erasmus+, TAIEX, Twining, SIGMA and the Neighbourhood Investment Facility - and in Cross-Border Cooperation programmes.
Eastern Partnership structured consultation – post 2020:
After 10 years of close cooperation, in May 2019 the European Commission launched a structured consultation on the future of the Eastern Partnership to reflect on future policy objectives. The European Council endorsed this approach in June and the consultation ran until the end of October and was broad and inclusive, with a dedicated website available for submitting contributions.
In response to the consultation, more than 200 written submissions were received. These included contributions from nearly all Member States, all six partner countries, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the European Investment Bank, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, international financial institutions, United Nations organisations, and youth stakeholders through the Young European Ambassadors. Contributions were also received from public authorities (international organisations, EU bodies, local and regional governments and state bodies); civil society organisations (including think tanks, academic institutions, civil society partners and business organisations); and individual citizens.
The consultation showed a broad consensus that the current policy framework is robust and should continue delivering tangible results for people. Outreach to youth and people at local level was recognised as key to make the EU more visible and impactful.
As a result of the consultation, and in line with the priorities of the new European Commission, new policy objectives have been formulated.
On 18 March 2020, the Joint Communication on the “Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020- Reinforcing Resilience- an Eastern Partnership that delivers for all” was published, outlining the long-term policy objectives for future cooperation. It underlines how to address common challenges and how the EU will work together with the partner countries in different policy areas in the future, with the aim to strengthen resilience, foster sustainable development and deliver concrete benefits to people.
This will be the basis for discussions with all partners ahead of the Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on 18 June 2020.
A factsheet summarising the Joint Communication is available here.