On 14 May, the European Union, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine marked the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership with a High Level Conference in Brussels.
The conference celebrated the achievements of the last ten years in the EU’s relationships with its six Eastern partners, and started discussions on the future strategic direction of the partnership, to continue delivering concrete results for citizens.
The High-level Conference was hosted by the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker and brought together Heads of State or Government and Foreign Ministers of the partner countries, Foreign Ministers of the European Union Member States, civil society representatives, business leaders, young people and journalists from across the 34 countries.
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, and the Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, also participated.
“The Eastern Partnership is fundamentally a future-oriented partnership for the citizens and with the citizens; firmly focussed on what is important for them. Together we are working towards stronger economies, stronger governance, stronger connectivity and stronger societies”, said Juncker.
“We have put in place ambitious Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine and citizens of these countries also benefit from visa free travel for short stays in the EU. 125,000 loans have been provided to businesses in the Eastern Partnership, of which half are in local currency, and we have contributed to the creation of over 30,000 jobs in the region.”
“And our trade has increased with each of the six Eastern Partnership countries, which together are the EU’s 10th trading partner. I would like us to continue to focus on the content of what we believe we should do together so that our Partnership can keep its promises,” he went on to say.
The first panel of the conference reflected on the main gains over the past ten years.
Commissioner Hahn said: “We are celebrating a decade of strong commitment of EU Member States and its six partners to strengthen cooperation, bring real change to people’s lives and strengthen reform processes.”
“The Eastern Partnership enables all six partners to address issues of common interest with the EU. For that purpose, we have set out the “20 deliverables for 2020” vision focussed on stronger economy, governance, connectivity and society.The Eastern Partnership will be marked this year by key achievements and a clear vision for the future; continuing to focus on tangible benefits for citizens will remain a key priority in the years to come,” he concluded.
The panel consisted of the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Poland and Sweden, Elmar Mammadyarov, Vladimir Makei, Jacek Czaputowicz, and Margot Wallström respectively, and a business representative, Maurice Beckand Verwee.
The second part of the conference provided the opportunity to launch discussions on the future of the Eastern Partnership.
“In these ten years, we have shown what a partnership with the European Union is all about: positive change in the lives of our people, particularly the young ones”, said High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini. “We made it easier travel to the EU, increased trading opportunities for businesses, and increased mobility for academics and students, she went on to say.”
“Our friendship today is much more mature than it used to be. We are much more focused on what truly matters to our citizens. Their priorities will continue to be the focus of our friendship,” she said.
The second panel comprised the the Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova, Pavel Filip, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and Lithuania, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Linas Linkevičius respectively, the European Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, youth representative, Hennadiy Maksak, and was moderated by Member of the European Parliament and Co-President of the EuroNest Parliamentary Assembly, Rebecca Harms.
Together with members of the audience, they reflected on some of the major challenges that lie ahead, such as:-
- Implementing reforms to strengthen the rule of law, the judiciary, and the fight against corruption;
- Further protecting the environment and actively tackling climate change;
- Increasing societal resilience by countering hybrid threats and disinformation;
- Strengthening the environment for civil society and a free and independent media;
- Improving the lives of citizens affected by the conflicts in the region;
- Finding ways to further increase trade and business opportunities.
Also on Monday, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, hosted a celebratory event for the Heads of State or Government of the Eastern partner countries.