Tuesday

19th Sep 2017

Opinion

How to refresh the EU's eastern policy

  • Galbur with EU foreign service head Federica Mogherini in Munich earlier this year (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)

Any major foreign policy or regional cooperation initiative usually passes through a life cycle: first, a solemn and promising launch; then, an active rise; and, finally, a period of … let’s call it maturity.

This is the phase when it becomes apparent whether the initiative is still relevant to the needs of its participants or is sliding toward obsolescence.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

After seven years of existence the Eastern Partnership (EaP) - the European Union’s outreach to six post-Soviet states, including Moldova - is approaching maturity.

So far, it is successful.

Since the initiative was launched in 2009, in spite of much turbulence in the region, there have been many more ups than downs in the relations between the Eastern partners and the EU.

Over the past three years, relations between the EU and the Eastern partners have reached a new level. Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine are implementing their Association Agreements, promoting comprehensive reforms in key sectors.

For these three countries, the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas have opened considerable trade opportunities and consolidated the EU’s status as their leading trading partner and provider of foreign direct investments.

Thus, Armenia is negotiating a new treaty, while talks on a new agreement with Azerbaijan will start soon. Cooperation between Belarus and EU has also gained momentum and should result in a new framework. In addition, the EU is a major provider of bilateral development assistance and supporter of regional projects.

Since the Riga Summit, cooperation within the Eastern Partnership is increasingly focused on four sectors: institutions and good governance, mobility and people-to-people contacts, market opportunities, and interconnections.

These are undeniably important areas, bringing our citizens, authorities and businesses closer to the EU. But is this enough for the Partnership to progress?

At the latest Riga Conference, I spoke at a panel about “The EU Eastern Partnership – how to inject more dynamism”. This subject reflects the current state of play. Eastern Partnership needs more high-level attention, more dynamism, sharper focus and bolder output.

Five points

In that spirit, here are five points for how to keep the Eastern Partnership moving forward.

First, deliver real benefits for people.

The first factor for success is producing visible results which will make life better for many citizens. Extending the visa-free regime that Moldova is already enjoying to Georgia and Ukraine would be beneficial.

At the EaP ministerial meeting in May, the EU member states and the commission referred to ideas such as reducing roaming charges and connecting the Eastern Partners to the Single Euro Payment System. Also, the recent EU-EaP ministerial meeting on Digital Community produced a promising plan for e-cooperation, and a follow-up effort is clearly expected.

Second, let’s explore ways to strengthen our political ties.

Since the Partnership began, the leading EaP countries have sought to get closer to the EU. This objective has been partly achieved through the Association Agreements.

The next step is implementing these Agreements through internal reforms for each partner. Now, is there any new shared political goal on the horizon to strive for?

Nothing mobilises an aspiring country better than a political perspective of getting to the next level of cooperation and/or integration. Therefore, I plead for a broad reflection – without prejudging the final results – what could be the new political targets for Eastern Partnership.

Third, security must be a major goal.

While the revised European Neighbourhood Policy identifies security as a new area of enhanced cooperation, it still needs a more visible profile within EaP.

Conflict settlements require a tailor-made approach and EU is well-positioned to bring a positive change. Meanwhile, helping partners to develop national crisis-management and response capabilities is an important element of building resilience and needs more focused attention.

Moldova and Georgia are already contributing to EU Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) missions and operations and should do more in the future. Furthermore, the EU has pledged to involve the partner countries more in its Policy Cycle on combating transnational crime.

Fourth, ownership in promoting reforms demonstrated by each partner is a key for success.

For instance, Moldova has launched ambitious reforms in key sectors such as justice, combating corruption, banking sector, energy, public administration.

Comprehensive legislation has been enacted and is now being implemented. At the same time, several major issues, such as investigating the banking fraud, are yet to be resolved.

Meanwhile, some intermediary achievements, such as the recent agreement with the IMF on a new program of cooperation, confirm that Moldova is on the right track. Our strategic goal is to become eligible one day to join the EU.

Therefore, building on the successes of the past, we are looking ahead to finding new opportunities to become better integrated into the European market and participate in EU projects. “More for more” principle definitely works.

Fifth, the multilateral dimension should be streamlined. Much effort is invested to keep four thematic platforms, six flagship initiatives and fourteen panels operating. The ongoing review of these tools should lead to a more result-oriented dialogue.

Next summit

In 2017 the EU and Eastern Partners leaders will meet at their fifth Summit.

This summit should produce solid achievements, while setting forth ambitious and, where appropriate, measurable political and sectoral goals for the next period.

The new Global Strategy calls for the EU to think creatively about deepening tailor-made partnerships further with neighbours outlining a number of possibilities.

Ultimately, a vision for the future and renewed political leadership will be the key factors allowing the EaP to avoid “middle-age crisis” and to enter its maturity recharged.

Andrei Galbur is Moldova's foreign minister

Bringing Moldova back on track

Brexit is part of EU "ups and downs", Moldova's foreign minister writes. "The benefits of being part of the EU family remain very clear to us".

How to fix Moldova

The EU must help Moldova to deal with its current crisis, but "pro-European" forces who fail to fight corruption will not be tolerated, Lithuania's foreign minister says.

Ukraine: NGOs need EU help

EU governments should stop Ukraine from hampering the work of NGOs in revenge against their anti-corruption work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  2. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  3. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  6. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  7. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  8. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  9. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  10. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  11. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted
  12. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUp to Three Quarters of Children Face Abuse & Exploitation on Mediterranean Migration Routes
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEurope Under Challenge; Recipe for a Competitive EU
  3. European Public Health AllianceCall to International Action to Break Deadlock on Chronic Diseases Crisis
  4. CES - Silicones EuropePropelling the construction revolution with silicones
  5. EU2017EEEU 2018 Budget: A Case of Three Paradoxes
  6. ACCAUS 'Dash for Gas' Could Disrupt Global Gas Markets
  7. Swedish Enterprises“No Time to Lose” Film & Debate on How Business & Politics Can Fight Climate Change
  8. European Free AllianceSave The Date!! 26.09 - Coppieters Awards To... Carme Forcadell
  9. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Grave Concern Over Rise in Antisemitism in Poland
  10. EU2017EECybersecurity and the Estonian Presidency
  11. European Free AllianceFemu a Corsica. A Corsican Nationalist Party With a European Dimension
  12. Salzburg Global SeminarSeminar on Sharing Experiences Across Borders to Combat Extremism