History and background
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a joint initiative of the European Union and its Eastern European partners: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.
The initiative was launched at the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit on 7 May 2009.
The Eastern Partnership foresees the possibility to upgrade the legal basis of relationship between the EU and the Eastern neighbours through replacing the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreements by the Association Agreements, establishing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTA) and visa liberalization between the EU and partner states.
The establishment of the Eastern Partnership brought about the differentiation of the EU approaches towards relations with its Southern and Eastern neighbours, who were previously treated equally within the framework of the European Neigbourhood Policy. From Ukraine’s perspective, this was a step in a right direction given that Eastern neighbours are European countries and may aspire for the EU membership once they met necessary criteria.
Ukraine’s strategic interest with regard to the Eastern Partnership consists in granting the European perspective to the interested partner states thus transforming the initiative into the connecting link with the EU enlargement policy.
The implementation of the Eastern Partnership is based on the principles of differentiation, shared ownership and shared responsibility, as well as “more for more” approach (partners most engaged in reforms benefit more from their relations with the EU, both in terms of funds and integration).
Besides bilateral relations between the EU and partner states and various bilateral programs, the Eastern Partnership also envisages the multilateral dimension of cooperation.
Bilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership
The EU views the Eastern Partnership as an integral part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which, in turn, is a framework policy of the EU towards neighboring countries. In other words, from EU viewpoint, the whole array of bilateral relations between Ukraine and the EU (and other Eastern Partners) is the bilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership.
Given that the Eastern Partnership is based on the major achievements which at the time of establishment of the initiative have already been accomplished by Ukraine in its relations with the EU (negotiations on the Association Agreement, visa dialogue, etc.), Ukraine doesn’t consider the Eastern Partnership as a framework policy, but as a complement to its more ambitious bilateral relations with the EU.
Therefore, development of relations with the EU in a bilateral format is an absolute priority for Ukraine, while the Eastern Partnership is seen primarily as a forum for multilateral dialogue on the implementation of reforms and cooperation with the EU.
Multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership
Introducing the multilateral dimension of political and expert dialogue is one of the main differences between the Eastern Partnership and the classical European Neighbourhood Policy.
The multilateral dimension operates on four levels:
• Summits of Heads of State and Government of the EU member states and partner countries - held every two years.
The constitutive Eastern Partnership Summit took place on 7 May 2009 in Prague. Five summits have taken place since the EaP Initiative was launched. The sixth summit is scheduled in 2021. Following the Summits, joint statements are adopted.
• Meetings of Foreign Ministers of the EU and Eastern European partners. Meetings are usually held once a year in Brussels.
The meetings are dedicated to assessing the progress achieved and the prospects of further development of the Eastern Partnership. Ministers also endorse core objectives and work programs of the EaP multilateral thematic platforms.
During the third ministerial meeting the Eastern Partnership Roadmap for the period 2012-2013 was approved. The document outlined the list of objectives, reforms to be implemented in the partner countries, financial and technical assistance from the EU and expected results by November 2013. Currently, the format of Roadmap is not used anymore.
In 2012, a new format of ministerial meetings was launched within the multilateral dimension of the EaP - the Eastern Partnership Informal Ministerial Dialogue. These meetings engage ministers of foreign affairs and line ministers of the partner states as well as respective members of the European Commission who discuss selected issues of sectoral cooperation and development of the Eastern Partnership in general.
In addition, as was agreed during the Fifth EaP Summit (November 24, 2017) and with the active support of the EU Commissioner for Trade S. Malmström, informal Ministerial Meetings were launched in the format of the EU - DCFTA member countries (Trio – Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova). The first meeting took place in Brussels on 20 September 2018. Given the effectiveness of this format of cooperation, the Ukrainian side proposed to make these meetings regular. This initiative was also supported by Moldova and Georgia. The second meeting took place in Kyiv on 21 May 2019 in an expanded format with the participation of exporters from three countries. The next meeting is tentatively scheduled in Tbilisi.
• four thematic platforms of the Eastern Partnership
The EaP thematic platforms were launched in June 2009 with an aim to facilitate an exchange of information and experiences between the partner states in the context of implementation of reforms. The platforms also promote the establishment of direct links between the experts of partner countries and the EU member states. The platforms hold biannual meetings which are attended by senior officials from the ministries responsible for reforms in the particular areas. Platforms are accountable to the annual meetings of Foreign Ministers. The activities of the platforms are developed on the basis of respective work programs.
Ukrainian delegations participate in activities of the four EaP thematic platforms. The following thematic platforms are working currently:
1. Democracy, good governance and stability
Addresses issues of democracy and human rights; justice and home affairs; security and stability.
The Ministry of Justice of Ukraine is responsible for this platform from the Ukrainian side.
2. Economic integration and convergence with EU policies
Addresses the issues of trade and regulatory approximation; socio-economic development; environment and climate change.
The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine is responsible for this platform from the Ukrainian side.
3. Energy security
Addresses the issues of diversification of electricity, gas and oil interconnections, energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as harmonization of energy policies.
The Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine is responsible for this platform from the Ukrainian side.
4. People-to-people contacts
Addresses the issues of culture, education and science; information society and media.
The Department of Association and EU Integration of the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine is responsible for this platform from the Ukrainian side.
Flagship initiatives of the Eastern Partnership
In the framework of multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership a number of flagship initiatives and expert panels have been established to support the activities of the thematic platforms in particular spheres.
The following flagship initiatives are working currently:
1) Integrated border management;
2) Small and medium enterprises facility;
3) Regional electricity markets, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources;
4) Environmental governance;
5) Prevention, preparedness and response to natural and man-made disasters.
Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum
In accordance with the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Prague EaP Summit, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) has been launched in 2009 by the European Commission. The mission of the EaP CSF is to promote contacts between the civil society organizations and facilitate their dialogue with public authorities in partner states.
The first Assembly of the EaP CSF took place in Brussels on 16-17 November 2009 and gathered representatives of some 200 NGOs and think-tanks from EU member states and partner countries.
The activities of CSF are organized in parallel to the four thematic platforms of the EaP multilateral dimension. Accordingly, within the CSF the following working groups have been established:
The working group “Social and labour policies and social dialogue” was set up in 2012. It is the only working group of the Forum which is not modelled after a thematic platform of the multilateral track of the EaP.
The coordinators of the working groups act also as members of the CSF Steering Committee - a collegial body which serves as the governing board of the CSF.
Under the auspices of CSF, the National Platforms in all six partner countries were established in 2011 for the purpose of ensuring active involvement of each partner-country’s civil society in the reform process.
The Ukrainian National Platform of the SCF currently brings together more than 150 civil society organizations.
The EaP CSF holds annual plenary meetings in the format of General Assembly.
Parliamentary dimension of the Eastern Partnership
The parliamentary dimension of the Eastern Partnership is covered by the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly. Ukraine is represented in Euronest by the delegation of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.