Brussels, 8 December 2009
Eastern Partnership implementation well on track - 1 st Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers meeting
The first Meeting of Foreign Ministers in the framework of the Eastern Partnership on 8 December 2009 in Brussels will gather foreign ministers of 27 Member States, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, as well as EU institutions. The European Commission will be represented by Commissioner for Trade and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. While taking note of the progress made on both the bilateral and the multilateral tracks of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) ministers are expected to endorse the Work Programmes for 2010 elaborated by the multilateral platforms. Bilateral work on further deepening of relations is advancing well with 2010 likely to see negotiations with five EaP partner countries on association agreements.
“Thanks to the joint commitment and efforts of all partners the Eastern Partnership has had an excellent start. Within a very short time we have achieved significant steps towards strengthening and deepening our relations - bilaterally and multilaterally. The new vision offered by the Eastern Partnership has been taken up and turned into concrete programmes for our joint endeavour. We have a joint goal political and economic stability, prosperity in the partner countries as well as increasing convergence with EU policies.” said Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner. "We are keeping our promise to achieve tangible results for the countries and citizens of the Eastern Partnership.”
The Eastern Partnership with its bilateral and multilateral components answers the aspirations of all Eastern Partnership countries to come closer to the European Union, both politically and economically.
Bilaterally the Eastern Partnership offers deeper relations according to partner’s needs and ambitions, i.e. through 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). Currently, negotiations with Ukraine ongoing; talks with Republic of Moldova will start in the beginning of 2010 and final work on negotiation mandates for Caucasus countries is ongoing.
A Comprehensive Institution Building programme will be launched early 2010 with an expert mission to identify the individual administrative needs of partner countries to implement the necessary reforms and thus to be prepared for deeper and further reaching relations with the EU. On this basis, tailor made programmes will be worked out to enhance and support partner countries capabilities to achieve tangible results in their reform processes within a shorter timeframe.
The EU recognizes the aim of increased mobility for citizens of partner countries. Visa facilitation and readmission agreements are the necessary first step in a gradual process towards full visa liberalization which is a long term goal. Visa dialogues address the individual situation and needs of each partner country on a case by case basis.
On the multilateral side thematic platforms have been constituted to address four main areas of interest:
In their meetings these four thematic platforms have adopted their Work Programmes for the next two years and started specific activities and projects. A first expert meeting on integrated border management took place in Odessa in mid-October. On 27 November a donor’s conference took place in Stockholm in order to promote energy efficiency projects in the partner countries. A cooperation project on civil protection will be launched in Gothenburg on 9 December. During the first quarter of 2010 the two remaining flagship initiatives for Small and Medium Enterprises and on Environmental governance will be launched.
The Eastern Partnership completes the EU’s foreign policy towards Eastern Europe and Southern Caucasus countries as 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 has an interest in helping these partner countries to 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 benefit from additional financial support of € 350 million for the period till 2013 which will add up to a total of € 600 million.