The Eastern Partnership (EaP) remains the sole comprehensive approach by the entire EU towards its eastern neighbours. Its goals and priorities are widely accepted and recognised. It is part of a larger European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and represents an umbrella allowing partners to deepen their relations with the EU and discuss matters of common importance. This is the message of the foreign ministers of Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic in anticipation of the EaP’s tenth anniversary this year.
In a joint statement signed by Margot Wallström, Jacek Czaputowicz and Tomáš Petűíèek, it is said over the years, the EaP not only endured - it has developed, matured and delivered beyond what was foreseen. “Today, we are confident to say that this unique partnership is one of EU's most successful foreign policy initiatives. It is a relationship firmly based on our common values, human rights, rule of law, democracy and good governance, and on the central principle of every country's right to choose its own future – which the EU and her member states have unanimously and consistently defended throughout these ten years”.
The officials note that political transformation is not yet beyond the point of no return and there is much to be done still. “Most citizens of EaP countries, though, share European values and a European identity, which motivate them in their efforts toward this goal. Through the Eastern Partnership, the European Union and her eastern partners have been investing into development, security and stability in the East of Europe.”
The statement enumerates among the EaP achievements the association and free trade agreements with Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, which give partner economies access to the EU market of over 500 million customers and, more importantly, to a market with clear rules and quality standards. The EU is already the biggest trade partner for five EaP countries, and trade volumes are steadily growing.
“We expect that increased investment follows from increased trade. The EU has launched an External Investment Plan, which provides entrepreneurs willing to invest with financial support, guarantees and technical assistance. Growing the trade and investments is in our common economic interest.”
Another achievement is that the EU has recently extended the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) to EaP countries. An investment plan of almost €13bn is being developed together with the World Bank, through which a total of 4,800 km of road and rail and six ports will be built.
“But our partnership is much more than association agreements, free trade areas, visa free travels and skills development for young people. It is about sustainable development and innovation. It is about resilience. It connects countries and people and covers a broad area of issues, including supporting civil society, pluralism and independent media, and ensuring gender equality and non-discrimination.”
The three foreign ministers note that the EaP is tailor-made, meaning that the speed of getting closer to the EU is adapted to the ambitions and pace of each individual EaP member. “Our support to reforms is merit based, of course. (…) We expect partner countries that declare higher ambitions (...) to deliver on reforms. More will get more in return. But we will, by the same token, respond with less for less when that is called for.”
The statement in full is available here.