Cooperation within the framework of the EU initiative “Eastern Partnership”


The initiative of the European Union (hereinafter – EU) “Eastern Partnership” – is an EU policy which aims at strengthening partnership relations with the EU eastern neighbors. On 07 May, 2009 at the summit, held in Prague (Czech Republic), the EU Member States and representatives of the Republic of Armenia, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine made a decision to launch the EU initiative ”Eastern Partnership” in order to implement political association and economic integration between the EU and its eastern partner countries. This policy was initiated by Poland and Sweden.

The Eastern Partnership is based on mutual interests and commitments of the parties, as well as on the principles of general participation and accountability, transparency and existing bilateral contractual relations. In addition, cooperation within the Eastern Partnership is carried out in accordance with the principles of international law and fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, market economy, sustainable development and good governance.

The Eastern Partnership aims at building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity, stability and increased cooperation. Additionally, bonds forged through the Eastern Partnership help strengthening state and societal resilience: it makes both the EU and the partners stronger and better able to deal with internal and external challenges.

Heads of state or government from the EU member states and the six Eastern Partner countries meet every other year in Eastern Partnership Summits. The latest Eastern Partnership Summit Declaration, agreed in May 2015 in Riga, reviewed the cooperation and provided the direction for further joint action. The upcoming Summit will be held in Brussels on 24 November, preceded by a number of side events.

Besides governments, the Eastern Partnership also involves broader society:

  • the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum ensures that the views of the civil society are taken into account;
  • the Conference of Local & Regional Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) brings in the perspective of the levels of governance that are the closest to the people;
  • the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly provides a platform for parliamentary oversight of the Eastern Partnership;
  • in addition, there are high-level events with youth, business and media representatives every second year in the run-up to the Eastern Partnership Summit.

Background and key developments

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was developed as a framework for relations with the EU's neighbouring countries in 2004. The Eastern Partnership (EaP) was established as a specific Eastern dimension of the ENP, which contains both a bilateral and multilateral track. It was launched at the Prague Summit in 2009. Since then, the Eastern Partnership has evolved; the substance of the policy has broadened, deepened and been adapted to changing realities. The latest important policy developments are guided by the 2015 review of the ENP and the 2016 EU Global Strategy. Both call to focus on achieving the goal of increasing stabilisation and resilience of the EU's neighbours. 

The EU is committed to building strong and mutually beneficial relations with all six partners, irrespective of their individual level of ambition in their relations with the EU. Bilateral relations are based on differentiation whilst the multilateral EaP structure offers an inclusive framework involving all six partner countries. Please find a brief overview below.

The Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (AA/DCFTAs ), concluded in 2014, have brought the relations between the EU and Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine to a new level. The agreements aim at strengthened political association and economic integration. They entail significant reforms that aim to bring the Partner Countries closer to the EU by aligning their legislation and standards to the EU ones. Most importantly, they have the objective of improving the lives of citizens in a tangible way. A notable example is the Visa liberalization that has entered into force for Georgia and with Ukraine in 2017 – in addition to the Republic of Moldova in 2014.

As a result of the 2015 review of the ENP, which stressed ownership and differentiation of the policy, a more tailored approach was taken to relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. For more information see the 2017 report on the implementation of the 2015 ENP review.  Concretely, a new Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement has been negotiated with Armenia, whose political and economic cooperation with the EU will take account of Armenia's other international commitments. The EU is also negotiating a new Framework Agreement with Azerbaijan, to better reflect our respective interests and values. With Belarus, the EU is deepening its critical engagement in carefully calibrated mutual steps.

Eastern Partnership engagement is focused on the four priority areas of cooperation, agreed at the 2015 Riga Summit: stronger governance: strengthening of institutions and good governance; stronger economy: economic development and market opportunities; better connectivity: interconnectivity; mobility and stronger society: people-to-people contacts. Discussions in EaP multilateral Platforms and Panels, where all six partners and EU Member states participate, help exchange best practices across these areas and develop regional cooperation.

 Financial cooperation

In the period of 2014-2020 - the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) is the key EU financial instrument for cooperation with the Eastern Partnership. Between 2014 and 2017, Partner Countries have already benefited from an overall of €2.8 billion of EU funds.

To ensure implementation of EaP policy priorities, the new Multiannual Assistance Frameworks for the period 2017/2018-2020 have been designed in an inclusive manner between the EU, its Member States and the six Partner Countries. Functioning as work plans guiding the actions until 2020, they cover the four priority areas of the Eastern Partnership.

Eastern Partnership cooperation: Priority areas

Tangible results for citizens are at the centre of EU engagement within the Eastern Partnership. The pursuit of tangible results has resulted in 20 deliverables of Eastern Partnership cooperation for 2020. These were developed in close consultation with all the stakeholders.  Some of the most important deliverables include:

  • Modernised transport connections through the TEN-T network;
  • Increased political ownership of energy efficiency;
  • Easier access to finance for SMEs, including to lending in local currency;
  • Establishing ways of reducing roaming tariffs between partners by conducting a study;
  • Increased trade opportunities;
  • Greater outreach to grassroots Civil Society Organizations; and,
  • More support for youth. 

A so-called joint working document "Eastern Partnership – focusing on key priorities and deliverables" drafted by the Commission and EEAS details the objectives across the five priority areas of cooperation agreed at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga in 2015:

1. Stronger Governance: Strengthening institutions and good governance

Strengthened institutions and good governance are important preconditions for economic growth and societal resilience. Improving governance, strengthening of electoral systems, reforming the justice sector, fighting corruption, strengthening security cooperation – notably to disrupt organised crime – supporting conflict resolution, crisis prevention, civil protection against new threats and cybersecurity are key elements for citizen's trust in their state and a fairer society. Furthermore, enhanced cooperation in the area of security will make the EU and its Eastern Partners better equipped to protect their citizens.

2. Stronger Economy: Economic development and market opportunities

In the area of economic development and market opportunities the 20 Deliverables for 2020 will aim to create more and better jobs and higher incomes, notably by improving the business environment. The EU will support its Eastern Partners in moving towards diversified, sustainable and modern economies, to create jobs in new sectors, attract investments and support macroeconomic stability, to drive the economic transition process forward and to improve the capacity of Partner Countries to take advantage of the trade opportunities with the EU and among each other.

3. Better Connectivity: Connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change

Better connectivity, energy efficiency, measures to preserve the environment and reduce climate change will further bolster the resilience of Partner Countries. Better transport links will support trade and travel by citizens. Energy interconnections and enhanced energy efficiency will strengthen energy security and open new opportunities for economic development. Enhanced climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts help Partner Countries to develop more efficient economies while becoming less vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change and improving the quality of life.

4. Stronger Society: Mobility and people-to-people contacts

Enabling easier and more frequent exchanges among citizens is central in the field of mobility and people-to-people contacts. Mobility and multi-faceted contacts between societies, including visa liberalisation, in a secure and well managed environment offer opportunities to learn from best practices in other countries. Particular efforts will be made to invest in youth as an investment in the future by supporting and empowering the young generation, specifically in terms of developing their skills and fostering their employability.

5. Involvement of broader society, gender and communication

A structured engagement with a wider range of civil society organisations, furthering gender equality and non-discrimination, as well as better, clearer and tailor-made strategic communications will be pursued as horizontal elements relevant for all four Eastern Partnership priority areas.