What the Eastern Partnership means for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine?

05-06-2019
What the Eastern Partnership means for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine?
1. What is the Eastern Partnership about? Does it mean EU membership?

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.

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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.

2. What is the EU's interest in the partnership? Why should the EU spend taxpayers’ money to help other countries?

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 on both sides, especially through free trade agreements like the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between the EU and the three Association Agreement countries, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The partnership also opens new markets for tourism, and the opportunity for young people – from both sides – to exchange, travel and broaden their experience.

So strong Eastern Partners also mean a stronger European Union.

3. OK, so the EU invests money, but is there proper control of where the money goes and how it is spent?

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. Even when dealing with state budget support, money is only released when agreed targets have been met – and the EU can and does hold back payment until it can see credible action to put objectives back on track.

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. By 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 from the Eastern Partner and from EU member states – can truly enjoy the benefits of closer partnership.

4. So what are the concrete benefits for the countries of the Eastern Partnership?

Political and economic agreements with the Eastern Partner countries mean greater trade and investment opportunities:  the number of companies from DCFTA countries exporting to the EU has grown significantly since 2015 – Georgia by 35%, Moldova by 40% and Ukraine by 26% - and together, the six Eastern Partner countries are now the EU’s 10th trading partner, with volumes of trade also up by 12% with Armenia, 28% with Azerbaijan, and 16% with Belarus. The EU has also provided over 125,000 loans to SMEs, to support growth and jobs in the region.

The Partnership is also delivering better transport links and infrastructure, with 4,800 km of new and rehabilitated roads and railways by 2030. And it is encouraging greater energy resilience and efficiency – both at local energy infrastructure level and for individuals, with almost 100,000 families reducing energy bills and improving living standards thanks to EU support.

As a result of cooperation with the EU, citizens across the region also enjoy more accessible and service-oriented public services, with new service-centre one-stop-shops and/or e-government services across the six countries.

The EU is also opening travel, study and professional opportunities for citizens in Partner countries, with more than 80,000 youth exchanges by 2020, including through the Erasmus+ programme. And travel has become easier, with visa free regimes in place between the EU and Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, while the EU has facilitation and readmission agreements in place with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and has finalised negotiations with Belarus. Also, 2 million scientists, academics and students at over 700 Research and Education institutions in all 6 Eastern Partner countries now enjoy easier access to a high-capacity broadband internet.

5. And for me?

It could be you: people from all walks of life have seen a direct impact from EU support – people like Ukrainian farmer Andriy Soroka, who received a low-interest loan from the EU to modernise his equipment; now he farms 300 hectares and has been able to raise wages and improve conditions on his farm. Or 25-year-old Inna Sumskaya from Baranavičy in Belarus, 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.”

In the Armenian capital Yerevan, Judge Liza Grigoryan was one of several justice and law enforcement personnel involved in an EU programme on combating violence against women, a process that could save lives by preventing cases of domestic violence.  And in just nine months, some 300 people in Azerbaijan – mainly the economically disadvantaged, people with special needs and pensioners – have turned to the Resource Centre, an EU-funded facility that provides free legal support to vulnerable citizens.

On the outskirts of Bălți in the Republic of Moldova, young mother Ana Tudos and the residents of 90 other apartments in her block are saving 30-40% on bills, thanks to an EU grant for thermal insulation and energy efficiency. And the people of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi benefit from EU support every time they step on one of the city’s fleet of 150 new low-emission buses, bought with EU-backed loans, cutting traffic, emissions and providing a better quality of life for all.

6. OK, I am interested - how can I track all these opportunities? How can I find something that might be useful to me?

The EU NEIGHBOURS website tracks and publishes all the latest EU opportunities. Whether it's a study visit for youth workers to Finland, a traineeship at the European Parliament, funding for energy efficiency initiatives or for human rights projects, or an export strategy workshop for small businesses, you’ll find all the opportunities in the dedicated section of the EU Neighbours website.

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+ offices.

You should also visit the website of the EU Delegation in your country, which has dedicated sections for jobs & funding, and travel & study.

7. 10 years have passed: what’s next?

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.

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.