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Brussels, 3 December 2008
Today's ambitious proposal for the Eastern Partnership 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.
Bilateral initiatives of the Eastern Partnership
Building on the successful work already accomplished within the European Neighbourhood Policy(ENP) the Eastern Partnership proposes 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.
A stronger political bond
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.
Improved market access and promotion of free trade areas
The Eastern Partnership aims at promoting free trade by giving sectoral support in the short term, which should provide immediate gains for business. The Association Agreements will include the goal of establishing Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with each partner country, once they have joined the WTO. This will enable the free movement of goods, capital and services much like the internal European market does. On a multilateral basis, encouraging partner countries to develop a free trade network between themselves, which could, in the longer term, join up into a Neighbourhood Economic Community. Not all partners are ready yet to undertake negotiations or implement a Free Trade Area with the EU, but the new Eastern Partnership can help partners to develop the necessary capacities required to move closer to this goal.
Increased mobility between the European Union and its Eastern Partners
The European Union is willing to gradually open its borders in a secure and controlled way. The Eastern Partnership foresees offering “Mobility and Security Pacts” to promote legal movement of people. A phased approach is foreseen for the Visa policy which aims at initiating talks on visa facilitation with partners, providing additional facilitation including the waiving of fees, improving Member State consular coverage through Common Visa Application centres and, in the longer-term, open dialogues on visa-free travel with all partners. The speed of which this is established will always depend on the situation of each partner country. Here again the new Eastern Partnership can help partners to develop the necessary capacities required to move closer to this goal.
Mutual energy security
The EU aims at including Energy interdependence chapters in the Association Agreements with Eastern Partnership countries. These chapters intend to increase energy security in the partner countries as well as with the EU.In this vein, the EU strongly advocates the negotiations on Ukraine's and Moldova's membership in the Energy Community as well as the signature of Memoranda of Understanding on Energy Security with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia. The EU intends to enhance the political engagement with Azerbaijan, as a major hydrocarbon exporting partner to the EU. Finally, a Commission-Belarus declaration on energy, covering hydrocarbon transit and energy sector reform should be discussed.
Comprehensive Institution-Building Programme
These innovative programmes reach well beyond what has been undertaken so far under ENP and will be developed with each partner country individually in order to accelerate the partner country's reform process. These Comprehensive Institution-building programmes will focus on capacity building in the partner countries, identifying weak spots and addressing these through training, technical assistance and equipment where necessary. Thus the EU will help the partners more intensively than before to achieve the reforms necessary to be eligible for what is on offer in the Eastern Partnership.
Support for economic and social development
The Eastern Partnership will help to tackle the less developed regions within the Eastern Partner countries, drawing on the experience of the EU's economic and social policies. 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.
Multilateral initiatives of the Eastern Partnership
A multilateral track will support individual countries' efforts by providing a framework in which common challenges can be addressed. 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.
Under the multilateral track the Commission also proposes five high profile flagship initiatives:
Integrated Border Management Programme
Border Management should be aligned to EU standards and this represents a prerequisite for the progress on the mobility of persons.
Small and Medium sized Enterprise Facilities
The programme foresees giving an external stimulus to small and medium enterprises through technical assistance, risk capital and loans.
Regional electricity markets, renewables and energy efficiency
Southern energy corridor
The development of the Southern energy corridor is a key infrastructure initiative serving to diversify transit routes and sources of supply for the EU and its partners.
Prevention of, preparedness for, and response to natural and man-made disasters
The EU wants to strengthen disaster management capacities and establish effective cooperation between the EU and the partner countries as well as among themselves.
Implementation and Structure of the Eastern Partnership
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. From then onwards biennial summits will be held to provide direction and profile to the Partnership. Annual meetings of Foreign Affairs Ministers should review progress and provide more detailed political guidance. Senior officials and experts engaged in reform work should meet twice a year within the framework of four thematic platforms.
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:
In addition to the ENPI partner countries can profit from funds for cross border cooperation, the Governance Facility and the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF). Cross Border Cooperation (CBC) brings together regions of EU Member States and ENPI partner countries sharing a common border. In 2008 the Cross Border Cooperation East adds up to approximately 25,6 Million Euro.
The Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) operates with pooled grant resources of the Community and Member States, which are used to leverage IFI loan financing. It focuses on the priority sectors Energy, Environment and Transport, but support may also be provided for SMEs and Social Sector development. There are projects ongoing ranging from Energy Transmission System, Technical assistance for Improvement of Water and Sanitation Systems, to the Modernisation Project at Chisinau Airport. In 2008 the NIF has allocated almost €70 million to projects in the East.
For further information:
See also IP/08/1858.
 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, the Ukraine and depending on its own choices Belarus,