The Eastern Partnership brings together the EU, its member states, and its six Eastern neighbours – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. For the last ten years, the partners have been working together to build a common area of democracy, prosperity and stability.
In everyday life, this means a stronger economy, stronger institutions and greater trust, a cleaner environment, safe and sustainable energy supply, opportunities for people across society and especially the young: ultimately, it means a better quality of life for all.
The Eastern Partnership does not mean EU membership, but it does provide the framework for countries to build a closer relationship with the European Union, if they choose to do so.
The European Union’s interest is very clear: stable, secure and prosperous neighbours are vital for the EU's own stability, security and prosperity – “We must export stability… to avoid importing instability,” in the words of the EU's Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy, Johannes Hahn.
At the same time, the Eastern Partnership opens new markets and consumers for businesses, supporting trade opportunities for both sides. The partnership also opens new markets for tourism, and the chance for young people – both Belarusians and Europeans – to exchange, to travel and to broaden their experience.
So a stronger Belarus also means a stronger European Union.
EU funds always face rigorous monitoring and reporting procedures – both internal and external – in order to assess the value and impact of actions, and with strict financial auditing to make sure the money spent is properly accounted for.
Fighting corruption is a top priority in European cooperation with its Eastern partners, with many actions supporting the rule of law, transparency, and effective public administration. And ensuring that European funds are properly spent not only contributes to a stronger economy and society in each partner country, it ensures that citizens – both Belarusians and from EU member states – can truly enjoy the benefits of closer partnership.
The EU is Belarus’ 2nd trading partner with almost a third of its overall trade, and trade is rising, up 19% in 2017. Some 4,500 companies in Belarus have benefitted from loans, trainings and advice supported by the EU, leading to 4,000 new jobs. Thanks to EU support, Belarusians are breathing cleaner air, with EU backing for government efforts to improve air quality in Belarus.
Thousands of individual Belarusians are travelling to Europe and taking part in exchanges supported by the EU: over 3,000 students and university staff were able to study or teach in EU countries since 2009 under the Erasmus+ programme, while over 3,400 young Belarusians have been involved in youth exchanges, volunteering and other projects. Another 3,200 people benefitted from short-term professional exchanges under the EU’s MOST programme for Belarus. And travelling and foreign exchanges could soon become even easier, with negotiations under way on visa facilitation.
It could be you: people from all walks of life have seen a direct impact from EU support – people like 25-year-old Inna Sumskaya from Baranavičy, who went to Portugal a year ago as a volunteer, working with children, and who regrets only one thing – “that I did not do it earlier.” Or women like Natasha and Sasha, and their children, who have been able to escape domestic violence with the help of the women’s shelter in in Mahilioŭ, funded by the European Union.
Football coach Alexander Kushner lives in Ashmyany, where he runs a youth academy: with the help of the EU, he spent a week in Germany visiting training academies; he believes his experience will benefit nearly 100 young footballers in his home town. And in Navahrudak, the local hospital has been fitted with 121 square metres of solar panels to heat water for the maternity ward, with the EU funding 90% of the cost – as a result, the hospital is saving €8,000 on utility bills each month.
The EU NEIGHBOURS website tracks and publishes all the latest EU opportunities. Whether it's a training for women entrepreneurs, a youth camp in Berlin, a traineeship at the European Parliament, or funding for energy efficiency initiatives, you’ll find all the opportunities in the dedicated section of the EU Neighbours website.
You can learn more about EU funded project in Belarus on euprojects.by
If you are a small business or an entrepreneur, you will also find a wide range of training and funding opportunities on the EU4Business website, while young people interested in exchange and study opportunities should check out the national Erasmus+ office in Belarus.
2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. Over the past decade, the efforts of the EU and its partner countries have brought more trade, mobility, economic development and better quality of life.
But the partnership does not stop there: the EU and its Eastern partners have set 20 key targets to be achieved by next year – known as the ‘20 Deliverables for 2020’ – and efforts are ongoing to meet those targets across good government, economic development, energy, environment and transport, and stronger society, as well as on gender equality, the media and civil society.