Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Support for increased cooperation across the EU's eastern borders

The Eastern Partnership, launched in Prague in May this year, can be described as a great success. In a series of areas, the relationship between the EU and six countries along the Union’s eastern border – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus – have deepened. This was made clear when the EU’s foreign ministers met with the six countries’ foreign ministers in Brussels on 8 December.

“We are very satisfied with today’s meeting. Our discussions today show that the Eastern Partnership has gained a solid footing and is moving ahead”, says Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt.

Both the relationship with the countries as a group and bilateral relations with the individual countries have progressed. In the case of Ukraine, negotiations on an Association Treaty with the EU have progressed and are expected to conclude in 2010. Negotiations on a Moldovan Association Treaty with the EU have not commenced but are expected to take place in January. In the EU Council of Ministers, discussions on a draft mandate ahead of negotiations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are ongoing.

Progress in the areas of democracy and human rights required
Belarus is a separate case. Due to the political situation in the country, it has no partnership or cooperation agreements with the EU. The EU has however clearly stated that the Union is ready to upgrade relations with Belarus, provided that there is progress made in Belarus in the areas of democracy, human rights and rule of law.

“It has been asked whether the Eastern Partnership can be seen as a conflict resolution mechanism for certain countries. I would like to point out that this is not the case. The Eastern Partnership is a cooperation between the EU and the countries on the Union’s eastern border and its objective is social and economic development in the countries.

On the multilateral side, in the cooperation with the countries as a group, four thematic platforms – forums – have been established. Since May this year, two meetings have taken place in each of the areas. They have focused on democracy, good management and stability, economic integration and closer ties to EU policy; energy issues in a broad perspective and education, research, culture and youth issues. The meeting formally approved the work programmes for the continued work in the four areas.

Concrete examples

Through the work in the four platforms, a number of flag ship initiatives have been launched. These are concrete examples of the work in the Eastern Partnership and include integrated border control, regional energy markets, improved energy efficiency and use of renewable resources.

On 9 December, there will be further initiatives taken in connection with a meeting for the EU’s Directors-General for Civil Protection which is to take place on 10–11 December in Göteborg. The meeting will adress prevention, preparedness and measures taken in the event of natural and man-made disasters. Further initiatives are expected in early 2010.

At the meeting, strong support for developing and implementing the Eastern Partnership over the coming years was expressed.

Source: Swedish Presidency of the EU. Published on 8 December 2009

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