The current Eastern Partnership (EaP) “20 Deliverables for 2020” framework is expiring at the end of this year. Since last year, the European Union has engaged in a structured consultation with key stakeholders across the EaP – government, civil society and private sector representatives. As a result of these consultations, a new policy framework has been presented.
It will strengthen resilience in partner countries in light of today’s challenges, foster sustainable development and deliver tangible results for citizens. It will also contribute to building a stronger Europe in the world. The Eastern Partnership remains a cornerstone of the EU’s foreign policy. For more about the Eastern Partnership, read here
Based on the results of an extensive consultation process and the building on achievements, the new EaP policy outlines five flexible and connected long-term policy objectives that aim at responding to new priorities, strengthening resilience to address common challenges, foster sustainable development and continue to deliver concrete results to citizens, namely:
- Together for resilient, sustainable and integrated economies;
- Together for accountable institutions, the rule of law and security;
- Together towards environmental and climate resilience;
- Together towards a resilient digital transformation;
- Together for resilient, fair and inclusive societies.
At the heart of the new policy are better support to the ecological and digital transformations, sustainable development and economic opportunities, in particular for young people.
Strengthening the resilience of the Eastern Partnership will be the core of the new policy. Resilience contributes towards stability, security and prosperity. The EaP policy beyond 2020 focuses on the modernisation and implementation of sustainable reforms, which are key for investing in a resilient economy, democracy, environment and climate, and society.
To support the creation of job and economic opportunities in partner countries, the EU is proposing to further deepen the economic integration with partner countries, and to increase trade, which has nearly doubled in the last decade. The EU will support the full implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, and also encourage enhanced cooperation with non-DCFTA countries, for example through sectoral trade facilitation arrangements.
Joint work on combating climate change, ensuring more opportunities for greening societies and economies and fostering a circular economy is an integral part of the new policy. The EU will help partner countries to fulfil their contributions to the Paris Agreement and modernise their economies, reducing their carbon footprint and moving towards climate neutrality.
The EU will invest in the digital transformation of the partner countries, in line with EU legislation and best practice, and aim to extend the benefits of the Digital Single market to them. This will allow for better access to digital infrastructure and services, better public services and administration for citizens, the extension of broadband infrastructures especially in regions and local areas, and stronger e-Governance.
Good governance, democracy, the rule of law and human rights are fundamental values and preconditions for a functioning market economy and for sustainable growth. In particular, the rule of law is a key factor in ensuring an effective business environment and an important consideration in attracting foreign direct investment. The EU will keep working together with the governments of partner countries to strengthen the rule of law and anti-corruption mechanisms, as well as the independence and accountability of justice systems, and to reinforce public administrations. The EU will consider progress in rule of law reforms when deciding on assistance. Serious or prolonged stagnation or even backsliding in reform implementation will lead to EU funding being decreased. The EU remains committed to promote and defend human rights in the region, including through its support to civil society and media.
In the wake of growing disinformation against EU values in recent years, the EU has worked to put in place a stronger and more strategic approach to communication. We have strengthened the EU’s communication in partner countries through clear, tailor-made messaging and raising awareness of the positive impact of EU policies and actions to people across the region. Under the new Eastern Partnership framework, there will be a renewed focus on outreach to youth. The EU will also consider providing training opportunities and capacity building to the partner countries, including on countering hybrid threats, where appropriate.
The EaP Summit of Heads of State and Government this year will be an opportunity to endorse the proposed long-term policy framework and give a mandate to develop a new set of tangible deliverables, building on the current “20 Deliverables for 2020” agenda. The European Commission and the European External Action Service will then propose realistic and measurable result-oriented deliverables in the second part of 2020, after further in-depth discussions with Member States, partners and key stakeholders.
The EaP policy beyond 2020 will set the basis for the future of the EU cooperation with partner countries. As discussions on the future Multiannual Financial Framework are still ongoing, the specific amount of money to be invested is still to be determined.
The EU will support partner countries in the area of public health, in particular in the modernisation of medical facilities, e-health, training of medical staff and providing affordable medical care and promoting access. This will include support in better addressing communicable and non-communicable diseases as in the case of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The EU is also looking at what can be done in terms of mitigating the socio-economic consequences of the crisis, for example how to adjust SME support schemes to take into account liquidity and other challenges they face. When it comes to state aid, the Commission allows more flexibility in EU state aid rules to allow for swift support for companies in its Member States. The flexibility is by extension valid also for the EU’s partners, while staying within the provisions of the Association Agreements and DCFTAs.
Over the past 10 years, the Eastern Partnership has made progress based on common values, mutual interests and commitments, as well as on shared ownership and responsibility. This strategic partnership has matured and evolved with achievements such as Association Agreements, a Comprehensive Enhanced Partnership Agreement, Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements and others.
Trade between the EU and Eastern partner countries has nearly doubled in the last decade. The EU is the first trading partner for Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, and the second biggest for Armenia and Belarus.
Furthermore, over 125,000 small companies in the Eastern partner countries have benefitted from EU funding, creating or sustaining more than 250,000 jobs. More than €60 million was allocated to almost 7,250 SMEs led by women.
In the area of transport connectivity, €20 million was allocated for building and rehabilitation of 4,800 km of roads and railways to extend the Trans-European Transport Network.
Through the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership, the E5P Fund has provided more than €150 million in investment grants to infrastructure projects, which improved lives for 8 million people.
The Eastern Partnership is also delivering for young people and researchers. The EU has supported 100 projects on civic engagement and entrepreneurship amongst youth: 23,000 young people have benefitted from EU4Youth grants to boost youth employment and 915 researchers received funding under the Marie Curie scheme.
Since 2016, 32.000 students and academic staff from the Eastern partner countries have participated in academic exchanges thanks to Erasmus+ and 46,000 young people were involved in other exchanges, including volunteering.
The structured consultation in 2019 confirmed that the Eastern Partnership is robust and delivering concrete benefits to citizens. There have been some achievements when it comes to stronger governance, but more remains to be done on the rule of law, the fight against corruption, independent media and civil society space.