"Eastern Partnership" is a European Union foreign policy initiative, which applies to 28 EU Member States and six Eastern European neighbors – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Launched on May 7, 2009 at the Prague Summit on the proposal of Poland and Sweden, the initiative aims at deepening cooperation between the EU, Eastern Europe and South Caucasus. The Eastern Partnership updates the legal basis between the EU and Eastern Partnership countries by replacing previous partnership and cooperation agreements and introducing the Association Agreement, as well as establishing a deep and comprehensive free trade area and visa liberalization between the EU and partner countries.
The emergence of Eastern Partnership led to the separation of EU foreign approach to relations with its Eastern and Southern neighbors who were in the same conditions under the previous European Neighborhood Policy. This separation is important as the Southern EU neighbors are not territorially European states. Consequently, those partners cannot be considered as potential EU Member States.
Eastern Partnership is based on bilateral cooperation between the EU and Eastern partner countries, as well as on multilateral cooperation between parts. Introducing the multilateral dimension of political and expert dialogue is one of the main differences of the Eastern Partnership from the European Neighborhood Policy.
The multilateral cooperation operates on four levels:
- Eastern Partnership Summit which includes Heads of State and Heads of Government of the EU Member States together with the representatives of partner countries. The Summit is held every two years. Up to date, such Summits have been held four times: Constitutive Summit held on May 7, 2009 in Prague; the second Summit held on September 29,2011 in Warsaw; the third Summit –on November28, 2013 in Vilnius. The last Summit took place on May 21-22, 2015 in Riga.
- Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the EU and of the partner countries is usually scheduled once a year in Brussels. The meeting is focused on the progress achieved and the prospects of further development of Eastern Partnership relations. The members of the meeting usually revise and endorse key goals and work programs of multilateral thematic platforms of Eastern Partnership.
- Thematic Platform of Eastern Partnership. In the context of reforms and institutional change, the thematic platforms provide exchange of information and experiences among partner countries. Thus, existence of such platforms which hold meetings at least twice a year facilitate direct links between the experts of partner countries and the EU Member States. The platforms are accountable to the meeting of Foreign Ministers.
Current thematic platforms:
1) Democracy, good governance and stability. Democracy and human rights; Justice, freedom and security; Security and stability. Currently, there are two flagship initiatives supported by this thematic platform: "Integrated Border Management" and "Prevention of, preparedness for, and response to natural and man-made disasters”.
2) Economic integration and convergence with EU policies. Trade and regulatory approximation;
Socio-economic development; Environment and climate change. The platform incorporates the flagship initiative "Tools to promote small and medium-sized enterprises."
3) Energy Security. Reinforcing solidarity; Support infrastructure development, interconnections and diversification of supply; Harmonization of policies in the energy sector. Flagship initiatives are the following: "Development of regional electricity markets, energy efficiency and renewable energy" and "Environmental management".
4) Contacts between people. The issue of culture; Education and Science; Information Society and Media.
- Working groups(expert panels) to support the work of the thematic platforms in specific areas.
Furthermore, the multilateral cooperation also includes:
- The informal dialogue at the level of foreign ministers and sectoral ministers of the partner countries as well as the EU Commissioners.
- Civil Society Forum aimed at involving general public to take part in Eastern Partnership initiatives. The purpose of the Forum is to establish networking among NGOs and facilitate their dialogue with state authorities. The Civil Society Forum operates on the same principle as the thematic platforms and receives financial support from the European Commission. Each of the partner countries formed its own Civil Society Forum. For instance, the Ukrainian National Forum brings together more than 150 non-governmental organizations.
- Euronest Parliamentary Assembly is another dimension of Eastern Partnership which provides a platform for inter-parliamentary meetings between the EU and the partner countries. Ukraine is represented by the Standing Delegation of the Verkhovna Rada which constantly participates in Euronest meetings. The last session was held during May 28-29, 2014 in Brussels.