Eastern Partnership of the EU
Stemming from an initiative by Poland and Sweden to step up EU’s Eastern Policy, the European Council of June 2008 invited the EU Commission to prepare a proposal for an “Eastern Partnership” (EaP). When the events of August 2008 proved that urgent political commitment towards the East was necessary, an EU Extraordinary European Council asked for the work of the Commission to be accelerated.
On 3 December 2008 the EU Commission presented its proposal for an EaP that will consist of a set of bilateral and multilateral initiatives seriously stepping up relations between the EU and its Eastern Partners (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine). The EaP is the result of a debate about improving the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) that has been evolving over the last couple of years and a significant step forward as it focuses on the Eastern neighbours only and aims to cope specifically with the region’s challenges.
With its new Policy the EU offers a set of attractive bilateral access points like the signing of a new generation of Association Agreements and possible future Free Trade Agreements that, however, remain short of perspective membership in the Union. While stepping up the bilateral relations between Brussels and the Partner States, the EaP will generate a new platform for multilateral cooperation among the Partner States, too. Furthermore, Civil Society actors are invited to participate not only in Monitoring, but also in planning and implementing of activities within the new policy.
We highly appreciate the EaP initiative as a first important step towards a new comprehensive EU Eastern Policy, but still see a significant need to fill this proposal with tangible ideas, especially from the Partner States themselves. The Heinrich Boell Foundation’s South Caucasus Regional Office is therefore making the expert dialogue on the EaP within Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan a priority of its work for 2009.