The first Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit in Prague on 7 May will gather leaders from the EU Member States, EU institutions and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to launch this new framework of reinforced bilateral and multilateral cooperation. This ambitious initiative will lead to deepening of political and economic relations, more energy security, increased mobility and will give an additional boost to pro-democratic and market oriented reforms in partner countries.
President José Manuel Barroso will represent the European Commission, accompanied by Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The Summit will be hosted by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek representing the rotating EU Presidency.
”The time has come for a visible step change in relations with our East European neighbours” – said President Barroso. “It’s in the EU’s vital interest to intensify relations with these countries aiming for political association and economic integration in order to promote more stability and security on the EU’s Eastern border. Through the Eastern Partnership the EU also shows its solidarity with the partners so deeply affected by the consequences of the current financial and economic crisis”.
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: “This Partnership, is built on common interests and shared values. It is a framework for a long-term relationship and engagement by the EU. The Partnership will bring additional support to our eastern partners as they pursue their individual aspirations for closer relations with the EU, and in particular more help in carrying out jointly defined reforms. Our partners' approximation to EU standards in the political, economic and social spheres will bring all of us greater mobility, trade and increased prosperity. Work on the Partnership is already up and running, and the first multilateral meetings will be held next month".
The Eastern Partnership, as proposed by the European Commission in December 2008 and endorsed by the European Council in March this year will complete the EU’s foreign policy towards Eastern Europe and South Caucasus through the development of a specific Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Successive enlargements of the EU brought these countries closer to the EU and led to increased political ties. The EU’s and these countries’ energy security are interlinked while the EU has a growing responsibility to the partners to help them address the socio-economic challenges they face and support their aspirations for closer ties, not least in the light of unresolved regional conflicts. The Eastern Partnership will be developed in parallel with bilateral cooperation between the EU and third countries, including the EU’s Strategic Partnership with Russia.
The Eastern Partnership offers deeper bilateral relations and launches a new multilateral framework for cooperation, according to partner’s needs and ambitions, i.e.
new Association Agreements (for those partners that have made sufficient progress towards democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and principles of market economy, sustainable development and good governance);
better economic integration with the EU (with the objective of establishing deep and comprehensive Free Trade Areas), as well as free trade among the partners themselves, with a longer term goal to develop a Neighbourhood Economic Community;
increased mobility through visa facilitation and readmission agreements (with gradual steps towards full visa liberalisation as a long term goal on a case by case basis provided that conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are in place);
strengthened energy security cooperation, including through support to investment in infrastructure, better regulation, energy efficiency and more efficient early warning systems to prevent disruption of supply;
improved administrative capacity of partner countries through jointly decided Comprehensive Institution-Building Programmes, financed by the EU;
specific programmes addressing economic and social development in the partner countries, aimed at reducing disparities of wealth between regions which can undermine stability; - additional financial support of € 350 million for the period till 2013, plus the redeployment of €250 million bringing the total for the implementation of the policy to €600 million.
One innovative component of the Eastern Partnership is a multilateral track consisting of four platforms which will bring the Eastern Partners together to exchange experience and information on issues like
Democracy, good governance and stability,
Economic integration and convergence with EU policies,
Energy security and
Contacts between people.
The platforms will be providing a framework in which common challenges can be addressed through seminars to improve understanding of EU legislation and standards, sharing of experience, and where appropriate development of joint activities. Work on setting up these platforms is to begin in June with a first meeting of the platform on democracy, good governance and stability.
Five high profile initiatives (flagship initiatives) in the framework of the multilateral track will serve the countries' interests and at the same time our own:
border management programme,
integration of electricity markets, energy efficiency and renewables,
an SME facility,
Southern corridor and
response to disasters.
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