The European Union maintains a strong commitment toward the Eastern Partnership; this is even more true for the EPP, which has been one of the major actors vis-à-vis the Eastern Partnership since its launch.
During the past decade, together with our partners, we have gone through important milestones: signing the Association Agreements (including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova); establishing visa-free regimes in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova; concluding the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership agreement with Armenia; deeper engagement with Belarus; increasing our economic ties; achieving progress in implementing 20 deliverables by 2020; advancing reforms; facilitating people-to-people contacts.
The Eastern Partnership has come a long way since 2009. This framework has brought our eastern neighbours closer to European standards, recognised their aspirations and become a real power for change, democratisation and reform.
It has been a decade since the launch of the Eastern Partnership, almost two decades since the “Rose revolution” and the “Orange revolution”, and three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union – it is time to move forward and to discuss our enhanced cooperation beyond 2020, and to set up long-term benchmarks. In light of Russia’s aggressive policy, the rising influence of China in the region and the security situation around our eastern borders, the EU needs to develop a clear strategy and a political vision for how to further engage with our partners.
The Eastern Partnership Summit is an opportunity to build on our achievements and to inject new dynamism into our relationships. In light of the upcoming summit in 2021, I would like to underline our main priorities:
- Values – we underline our joint commitment to fundamental values and international law; to the principles upon which the EU was founded: notably those of peace, friendship, solidarity, responsibility, prosperity, freedom, democracy, non-discrimination of persons belonging to minorities, respect for diversity, rule of law and human dignity.
- Ambitions – we continue to support strongly the European aspirations of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova; this support is reflected in all previous EPP Eastern Partnership declarations and congress resolutions. We recognise these partners’ sovereign choices, ambitions and goals in their relations with the EU.
- Deliverables – with each and every one of our partners, we have a concrete, specific agenda of very concrete measures and policies that can benefit citizens. Implementation of the identified milestones and targets helps to demonstrate the value of the Eastern Partnership both for partner countries and for EU Member States. The achievements of our partners should constitute a strong basis for further integration with the EU as well as bring our societies and economies together.
- Differentiation – we need to further enrich the Eastern Partnership in line with the principles of differentiation, strict conditionality, joint ownership, joint responsibility and solidarity: the “more for more” and “less for less” principle. We support closer cooperation with EU associated countries – Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, particularly – a tailor-made cooperation with more ambitious EU political and economic integration objectives in order to improve motivation for speeding up reforms.
- Security – we need to increase cooperation between the EU, its Member States and select members in matters of security, intelligence, and defence. A new initiative – a security compact of the Eastern Partnership – is a good starting point for such a discussion.
- Conflict resolution – we reiterate our support for territorial integrity within internationally recognised boarders; we condemn Russian aggression and annexation of Crimea and Russia’s occupation of Donbass, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria; we reiterate our comprehensive support for the efforts and basic principles of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs on the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict resolution.
- Solidarity – we support our partners in difficult times: in this Covid-19 pandemic, the European Union is committed to solidarity with the citizens of Eastern Partnership countries, not only in word but also in action. As part of its global response to the coronavirus outbreak, the European Commission has mobilised an emergency support package of around 1 billion euros for Eastern Partnership countries.
- Resilience – we must strengthen the resilience of our partners: to work towards resilient economies, environmental resilience, resilience against corruption and terrorism: to become more resilient against hybrid threats, cyberattacks, disinformation, propaganda, election meddling and third-country interference.
- Citizens – we have to strengthen links between citizens, support increased mobility, avoid brain drain, promote inclusive education, invest in youth and support civil society.
- Democratisation – we believe in democratisation rather than stabilisation; the EPP has been always determined to fight for democratic standards. Therefore, we call on all Eastern Partnership governments to assure free and fair elections, to support media freedom, to respect the rule of law, to stop politically motivated persecutions and to continue the fight against corruption.
- Communication – we need to improve our communication: to ensure that EU support, engagement and policies are well promoted and explained to the citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.