The idea to establish an ‘EU Neighbourhood EAST Parliamentary Assembly’ (EURO-NEST) dates back to the EP resolution of 15 November 2007, in which it is proposed to set up such an assembly ‘following the example of the multilateral parliamentary assemblies already established with the participation of the European Parliament’.
On 4-5 June 2008, the Parliament organised a Parliamentary Conference ENP-EAST, inviting representatives of the six Neighbourhood countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). Belarus was represented by extra-parliamentary opposition leaders. In the final statement of the Conference, a reference to the creation of EURO-NEST was adopted.
With its resolution of 8 June 2008 on the Annual report on the CFSP, the European Parliament ‘undertakes to set up an EU-Neighbourhood East Parliamentary Assembly (EURO-NEST) by 2009, in order to enhance the parliamentary dimension of the political partnership between Parliament and the countries involved in the eastern part of the ENP.’
In the intervening period, the EP Bureau and the Conference of Presidents have considered the proposal and asked for the opinion of the EP Working Group on Parliamentary Reform. The latter Working Group submitted its proposal with regard to multilateral bodies in its third interim report of December 2008. The Working Group suggested that ‘membership of ... possible future multilateral assemblies becomes an automatic additional membership for the number of Members from those bilateral delegations corresponding to the size of the EP delegation to the Assembly concerned. This enhanced link between delegations and multilateral assemblies should also cover the timing of meetings (bilateral delegations should be conducted in the margins of the meetings of the multilateral assemblies, both when meeting in the EU and when meeting in third countries) and other activities of the parties concerned.’ The Conference of Presidents endorsed this proposal at its meeting of 12 March 2009.
Following a consultation by the President, the Chairs of the four concerned bilateral delegations informed him of their agreement to the proposed creation of a EURO-NEST assembly, asking, however, to maintain the existing bilateral structures in parallel.
In early October 2008, the President of the European Parliament sent letters of consultation to each of the Speakers of the parliaments of the countries concerned (with the exception of Belarus). All the Speakers replied positively, reiterating - like our delegation chairs - the importance of maintaining and developing bilateral relations too.
On 3 December 2008, the Commission presented a communication on the Eastern Partnership (COM (2008) 823 final). Its institutional proposals concern the provision for summits and meetings of the foreign ministers of the ENP countries at regular intervals.
On 15 January 2009, the Conference of Presidents,
‘— decided in principle to establish, after the forthcoming European Parliament elections, a Parliamentary Assembly for relations with the Countries of the Neighbourhood East;
— decided that such an Assembly should be composed of Members of the European Parliament - to be drawn exclusively from Members of the existing delegations for relations with the relevant countries - and Members of the national parliaments of the countries of the EU's Eastern neighbourhood policy;’
In his speech at the meeting of the European Council on 19 March 2009, the President included the following: ‘Even prior to today's formal endorsement of the Eastern Partnership, the European Parliament decided to support and build on the Commission initiative by endowing it with a parliamentary dimension. From the start of the European Parliament's seventh parliamentary term, a Parliamentary Assembly for Relations with the Countries of the Eastern Neighbourhood will address matters of mutual interest, such as democracy, sound governance and stability, economic integration, energy security and interaction between people.
The Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council (19-20 March 2009) contain (in Annex 2) a Declaration by the European Council on the Eastern Partnership, which includes the following statements:
‘5. The multilateral framework of the Eastern Partnership will provide for cooperation activities and dialogue serving the objectives of the Partnership. It should operate on a basis of joint decisions of EU member states and Eastern partners, without prejudice to the decision making autonomy of the EU.
The European Council proposes to hold regular meetings in principle once every two years at the level of Heads of State or Government of the Eastern Partnership, and once a year at the level of Foreign Ministers. Four thematic platforms should be established according to the main areas of cooperation (Democracy, good governance and stability; Economic integration and convergence with EU policies; Energy security; and Contacts between people). The European Council also supports the launching of Flagship Initiatives in order to give momentum and concrete substance to the Partnership. The EU looks forward to an early discussion with the partners in this regard.’
‘7. On the basis of this Declaration, the EU will conduct the necessary consultations with Eastern partners with a view to preparing a Joint Declaration on the Eastern Partnership to be adopted at the Eastern Partnership launching summit on 7 May 2009. The European Council looks forward to launching the Eastern Partnership as a common endeavour with partners, being confident that this initiative will advance the cause of good governance, increase prosperity and strengthen stability, bringing lasting and palpable benefits to the citizens of all participating countries.’
The European Council's conclusions establish an institutional framework for future cooperation at the level of the executive. It would therefore seem sensible to move quickly to delineate the likely contours of a parliamentary-level dialogue, in parallel. The Conference of Presidents could, therefore, proceed to the examination of a concrete proposal to set up a Parliamentary Assembly EU Neighbourhood East (PA EURO-NEST). Such a proposal could be considered by the Conference of Presidents at its meeting on 16 April 2009 and adopted at its meeting on 24 April 2009. This would enable the President to invite the Speakers of the five national parliaments concerned to endorse this proposal at the Eastern Partnership launch summit to be held on 7 May 2009. It would also allow the Parliament to ask for the inclusion of the EURO-NEST PA as part of the Joint Declaration to be adopted at that summit.
After the European Parliament elections in June 2009, S&D MEP Kristian Vigenin was elected as the EP co-President for the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. Following various meetings at different levels, the delagtion of the EP for Euronest has agreed upon the Rules of Procedure which was later sent to the Conference of Presidents for approval.
The Rules of Procedure were sent to the national parliaments of the Eastern Partners for discussion and approval.
As from the autumn of 2009, the EP Delegation to the Euronest PA was constituted and, gradually, the pace and substance of meetings with homologues from the Eastern Partners increased in importance. After intensive discussions on the modalities of participation of Belarus and on the Rules of Procedure, the Assembly was constituted on 3 May 2011 in Brussels.
The Euronest Parliamentary Assembly will consist of two components:
- the European Parliament delegation (60 Members);
- the Eastern European Partners' delegations (10 Members each, whereas Belarus will not take part, for the time being , in the Assembly's activities, due to political reasons, but with all Partners' understanding that its Members will be welcomed as soon as possible, provided the membership political requirements will have been fulfilled).
The Euronest Parliamentary Assembly includes the plenary, four standing committees
(Committee on Political Affairs, Human Rights and Democracy; Committee on Economic Integration, Legal Approximation and Convergence with EU Policies;
Committee on Energy Security; Committee on Social Affairs, Education,
Culture and Civil Society) and two working groups (one on Belarus and one on the Rules).
The EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly shall be the parliamentary forum promoting the necessary conditions to accelerate political association and further economic integration between the European Union and the Eastern European Partners, without pre-judging the individual aspirations or integration agendas of any Partner. It shall contribute to the strengthening, development and visibility of the Eastern Partnership, as the institution responsible for parliamentary consultation, supervision and monitoring of the Partnership.
Euronest shall meet, in principle, once a year, alternately in an Eastern European Partner country and on the premises of the European Parliament in one of its places of work (Brussels, Luxembourg or Strasbourg).