Commissioner takes stock of Eastern Partnership and looks ahead

The EU should be as ambitious as possible with those who spearhead on reforms and have clear European aspirations, Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Commissioner Štefan Füle has said in remarks at a meeting of the informal Information and Coordination Group of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in Brussels.
The Commissioner said much had been achieved since the launch of the EaP in terms of political association and economic integration, mobility and sectoral cooperation. Highlights include negotiations on the Association Agreement, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA - finalized with Ukraine, good progress made with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia); talks on the Association Agreement with Azerbaijan, talks on Visa Readmission and Facilitation Agreement with Armenia and Azerbaijan, with a similar offer extended to Belarus; the launch of Comprehensive Institution Building Programmes worth €173 million altogether, etc.
As regards the multilateral track, the Commissioner said, the EaP provides a forum to exchange good practices on approximation to EU standards and a platform to reach out to national parliaments, regional and local authorities and civil society. “The Euronest, the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities of the EaPand the Civil Society Forum provide us with different channels to foster democratic values and to advocate reforms in partner countries,” said Štefan Füle.
To deepen mutual understanding and political dialogue on international policy developments, a new format of consultations with partners has been launched, namely informal EaP dialogues.
Preparations for the next programming period (2014-2020) are underway, the Commissioner said, adding: “To achieve ambitious goals, we need equally ambitious budget.”
The EaP Roadmap for 2012-13 includes progress in negotiations on Association Agreements with five partners, including DCFTAs where appropriate; headway on mobility through visa facilitation and liberalisation with a visa free regime as a final goal; further development of the EaP multilateral track.
It is equally crucial that the EU supports the sustainable reform process in partner countries, including through financial assistance,” the Commissioner said, by providing “more support for those who reform more.” He cited the new EaP Integration and Cooperation programme worth €130 million “for those EaP countries which are spearheading reforms,” with allocations already announced for Armenia, Georgia and Moldova.
An additional boost to support non-state actors across European neighbourhood will be ensured through the recently established European Endowment for Democracy, said Füle.  
The Commissioner outlined major developments ahead of the EaP Vilnius Summit, including theENP progress reports assessing the implementation of reforms in partner countries, due to be released in March 2013, as well as the annualEaP Ministerial in the summer 2013 to discuss the preparation to the Summit with Member States and partners together. (EU Neighbourhood Info Centre
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Štefan Füle - Remarks
EU Neighbourhood Info Centre webpage - Eastern Partnership

EU Neighbourhood Info Centre - Eastern Partnership Glossary 

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