TODAY’S FOCUS: WOULD THE READER PARTITICIPATE IN THE FUTURE FRAME FOR THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP OF THE EUROPEAN UNION?

Issue 126, September 2019.
TODAY’S FOCUS: WOULD THE READER PARTITICIPATE IN THE FUTURE FRAME FOR THE EASTERN PARTNERSHIP OF THE EUROPEAN UNION?
 
J.R. Iturriagagoitia, LLM (Georgetown University), Abogado (Madrid)
 
The EU Enlargement Process, starting with the Berlin European Council of 1999 brought rapidly into the European Union ten new Member States: eight Central and Eastern European countries, plus Cyprus and Malta. The other Eastern European countries found themselves confronted with a new political and economic environment, notably for their economies and industries which had been based for more than half a century to GOST standards inherited from the Soviet Union. A similar situation appeared around the Mediterranean. As a consequence, the European Union considered adopting a new approach to relations between Western, Southern and (old) Eastern Europe. The European Commission summarised in its Communication ‘Wider Europe’ of 11 March 2003 the realm of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) with the EU’s Eastern and Southern Neighbours. Subsequently, the new “platform”, or “political association” called the Eastern Partnership, or EaP was devised. The Eastern dimension of this Swedish-Polish initiative comprised initially Russia and all Western New Independent States. The EU institutions framed in the interim the quite emphatic term ‘ring of friend’ to refer to the zone of prosperity and closer neighbourhood alongside those countries with whom the EU enjoys close, peaceful and co-operative relations within the Wider Europe Neighbourhood.
 
The EaP was officially launched at the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit of May 2009 with the participation of six of the EU Eastern neighbours, including Ukraine. It became then a specific dimension of the ENP. The EaP ambitious aim of initiating political association and economic integration would imply new Association Agreements, including the formation of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas, and gradual integration into the EU economy. Visa liberalization and measures to tackled illegal immigration were among the objectives set in the Summit. Anyhow, the EaP is intended to promote democracy, stability and resilience in the partner countries, while ensuring a safer neighbourhood for the EU. These are among the EU’s main core principles that inspire also the EaP.
 
The complete outlook of the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy includes presently:
 
its strategy document incorporating the global strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy ‘Shared Vision, Common Strategy: A Stronger Europe’ (2016) with its Implementation Plans (2017, 2018 and 2019);
the new Strategic Agenda for the EU 2019-2024 (2019);
the EU’s Global Strategy ‘Three Years on, Looking Forward’ (2019); and
the reviewed ENP (2015).
 
As for the EaP, the Brussels Eastern Partnership Summit 2017 adopted a Joint Declaration which included the joint reform agenda ‘20 deliverables for 2020’.
 
Some facts about the ENP/EaP need to be highlighted at the time the platform celebrates its 10th birthday. 
 
Firstly, Eastern Europe is not fully represented in the Eastern Partnership. In 2003 already, Russia, notwithstanding the EU’s invitation to join the EaP, declined this invitation. At that point in time, Russia was not yet a member of the WTO. There can be doubt that this answer from Russia represented the first open wound in post-Soviet Union relations with the EU. Anyhow, since then Russia, as a leading member of the Eurasian Economic Union has introduced into its national legislation rules intended to develop a certain type of market economy. 
 
Secondly, a key leitmotif for the EaP has always been “sharing everything with the Union, but the institutions”. This phrase has been mistakenly interpreted on occasions as a first step toward EU membership. Sadly, in this error originate also some misunderstandings among observers of the process in Eastern and Southern Europe alike, while enlargement has clearly not at all been on offer.
 
Thirdly, the EU has funded projects to streamline the transition to the market economy in several partner countries and, most importantly, it has entered into Association Agreements not only with Ukraine, but also with Georgia and Moldova, and into a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with Armenia. Other success elements include divergent legal and administrative approximation schemes to EU standards in the different EaP countries. 
 
Against this background, a High-Level Conference dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the EaP was organised in Brussels in May 2019. For the sake of this article, the most remarkable output of this Conference was the announcement of a broad and inclusive structured consultation process to reflect on the future strategic direction of the EaP and the post-2020 deliverables. The consultation takes the form of a survey. The deadline for sending contributions ends on 31 October 2019.
 
By means of consultation procedures, the European Commission seeks the opinion of citizens, private institutions, i.e. stakeholders, when it develops policies and legislation. In the present case, the issues under consultation are: 
 
how can economic and human capital development, and prosperity be boosted;
how can good governance, the rule of law and the security dimension of the EaP be boosted;
how can cooperation among Eastern partners be enhanced, whilst ensuring inclusiveness and differentiation in their relations with the EU;
what can be done to enhance EaP and EU visibility; and
other proposals and reflections on the future EaP.
 
We would certainly recommend that private individuals and businesses, including Chambers of Commerce, Associations, Universities and other similar entities spend sufficient time in a comprehensive and objective assessment of the past achievements, so as to formulate proposals on the future of the EaP together with its/their partners across EU border-lines. In this way, by the end of 2020 a comprehensive and EaP-countries friendly review of the EaP can realistically be expected.