What is the EU’s Eastern Partnership?

Proposed members of the Eastern Partnership in darker blue, green are partly participating countries. Wikipedia image.
Proposed members of the Eastern Partnership in darker blue, green are partly participating countries. Wikipedia image.

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is an EU project which represents a step change in the EU’s relations with its Eastern Partners as it aims at enhancing cooperation both on bilateral and multilateral level.

The EU already has similar partnership initiatives – the Northern Dimension and the Union for the Mediterranean. The Eastern Partnership was presented by the foreign minister of Poland with assistance from Sweden at a the EU’s General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels on 26 May 2008. The talks on Eastern Partnerhip intensified after the Russian – Georgian war in August, and naturally it was seen as a politically motivated initiative by Russian politicians.

Accoding to the EaP official press release, the Eastern Partnerhip is “building on the successful work already accomplished within the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)” – and proposing to go even further: It is a policy based on a differentiated approach with each partner and dedicated to supporting each individual country to progress in its own way and at its own speed. While I fail to see what exactly is the successful work already accomplished within the ENP – as far as Armenia is concerned, I can easily see the benefits of differenciated approach.

According to the same source – the EU strives to raise the level of aspiration by offering new Association Agreements to those partner countries that are willing and ready to take on far-reaching commitments with the EU and that meet the essential conditions of ENP.

Some of the main directions offered by the initiative – are 1) Improved market access and promotion of free trade areas – which will enable the free movement of goods, capital and services much like the internal European market does in the longer term; 2) Increased mobility between the European Union and its Eastern Partners – offering to ease visa requirements and in the longer-term, open dialogues on visa-free travel with all partners; 3) Mutual energy security – here the role of Azerbaijan is highlighted, along with steps to “increase energy security in the partner countries” 4) Comprehensive Institution-Building Programme – will be developed with each partner country individually in order to accelerate the partner country’s reform process; 5) Support for economic and social development – the idea is to help partners identify economic and social disparities, and improve conditions in less developed regions, thereby laying the foundations for prosperity and economic growth; 6) Multilateral initiatives of the Eastern Partnership – This will include seminars to improve understanding of EU legislation and standards, sharing of experience and development of joint activities between the countries of the Eastern Partnership where appropriate. For this purpose four policy platforms are proposed: on democracy, good governance and stability; economic integration and convergence with EU policies; energy security; and contacts between people.

After adoption by the European Council the Eastern Partnership will be launched at an “Eastern partnership summit” in spring 2009 involving the Heads of the States or Governments of EU Member States and Partner Countries.

Current EU Financial Funding in the Eastern Partner Countries

The European Union already provides funding to the Eastern Partner countries for bilateral programmes under the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI). Between 2007 and 2010 spending is as follows:

* Armenia 98.4 million Euro
* Azerbaijan 92 million Euro
* Georgia €120.4 million Euro (additional funding up to 500 million Euro will be available for Georgia to cope with the consequences of the crisis in August 2008),
* Moldova 209.7 million Euro
* Ukraine 494 million Euro

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