What should be the post-2020 Eastern Partnership deliverables, especially for the development of relations with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine? A group of 37 EU, Georgian, Moldovan and Ukrainian researchers and think tank experts contributed to the development of a document. It will be submitted for processing to the European External Action Service (EEAS); the European Commission; members of the European Parliament; and ministries of foreign affairs of EU member states, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The EU’s Eastern Partnership (hereafter EaP) policy, officially launched in 2009, achieved several successful outcomes. The EU signed association agreements, started to implement deep and comprehensive free trade areas and agreed on visa-free travel regimes with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

EU Ukraine flagsThe EU also helped these countries to modernise their economies, diversify trade flows, improve their energy security, and strengthen civil society and political pluralism. However, the political, geopolitical and security situation in the EaP region remains fragile and unstable. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and social effects have further complicated the situation.

Despite these challenges, the EU demonstrated continued commitment to deepening its relationship with the three EaP partners that signed Association Agreements. At the same time, the consolidation of the achieved progress and setting new ambitious goals for the next 5-10 years require further unwavering commitment from both the EU and its EaP partners.

Priority Areas

Taking into account the lessons learned from the previous decade, we believe that the key objectives of cooperation between the EU and the three associated EaP states for the next 5-10 years require progress in the following priority areas:

  1. Security: A stronger, more geopolitical Europe
  2. Environmental and climate sustainability: Green Deal for Eastern European Partners
  3. Accountable institutions, judicial reform and rule of law
  4. Sustainable, fair and inclusive societies: people-centric EaP
  5. Sustainable, stable and integrated economies.
  6. Sustainable digital transformation.

In particular:

  • The EU should use the forthcoming Eastern Partnership summit in 2021 to clearly reaffirm the recognition of the European aspirations of the three associated EaP countries, pursuant to Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union which sets out that any European state may apply for EU membership provided that it adheres to the EU standards of democracy and rule of law.
  • The three associated EaP partners should further strengthen their strategic dialogue with the EU over policy objectives and systemic developments. The associated EaP partners should be invited to selected meetings of the EU Council and EU working groups.
  • Consolidate the existing EaP achievements and move towards full implementation of the association agreements and comprehensive integration of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine into the EU’s single market based on the four freedoms.
  • Redouble efforts to fulfill the unfinished tasks of strengthening institutions of democracy, the rule of law and the fight against corruption throughout the EaP area, in line with aspirations of societies.
  • Expand involvement in policy areas, which are currently insufficiently covered by the Eastern Partnership, but which are key to the future of the EaP countries, in particular in security and environmental areas.
  • In 2020, the EU took timely emergency measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing support to the EaP countries worth more than EUR 1 billion under the EU’s Team Europe programme. The EU should also consider adopting a flexible, tailored and comprehensive Investment and Economic Recovery Plan for the EaP countries. While implementation of necessary reforms requires a consistent and strong political will of the pro-reform elites in the partner countries, the EU support is indispensable by offering incentives of trade liberalisation, providing assessments of the draft legislation and supporting creation of functional institutions. The Europeanisation is a common strategic goal of the EU and EaP partners that have European aspirations.

Post-2020 Eastern Partnership deliverables:

  • EU member states with EU institutions’ support can become closer to capacity-building programmes, structured cooperation on countering threats, technical support (especially SIGINT cross-border electronic intelligence), and military intelligence to further reform these sectors.
  • Establishment of an Eastern Neighbourhood Intelligence Support and Coordination within the European External Action Service (EEAS) that will serve as a group both to coordinate assistance (like the support group) to the EaP countries and to improve the practical exchange of intelligence between the EU and EaP countries. It would be important to set up intelligence liaison offices in Tbilisi and Chisinau.
  • Another area that needs attention is cyber-security. In recent years, all EaP countries have either reformed or created new cyber-security institutions (CERT cyber-incident response teams, specialised departments within police and intelligence agencies). However, these institutions lack resources.

The EU should help build capacity and develop cooperation with these institutions. Such cooperation could include mutual exchange of intelligence data and information on cyber threats, assistance in securing government communications and critical infrastructure, as well as conducting joint cyber exercises.

  • The EU should strengthen and deepen its security dialogue formats with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The EU should complement its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions in Georgia and Ukraine with CSDP operations and further support the Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM). An EU Advisory Mission (EUAM) in Moldova should also be launched. This will boost the EU’s prestige as important geopolitical actor and strengthen the resilience of partner countries and their capacity to reduce risks.
  • Providing opportunities for interested EaP partners to join the work of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) and the EU Rapid Alert System could be a significant step towards cooperation between the EU and interested EaP countries.
  • The fight against terrorism is another area in which the EU and the EaP countries have many common interests. Preventing illicit purchase of weapons, ammunition, explosives (particularly in war zones and uncontrolled areas), and their smuggling abroad, as well as foiling financing and money laundering on behalf of terrorists and other illegal armed groups, is still an uphill task for the EaP states. To solve these problems, cooperation within the framework of the above-mentioned EaP Security Compact is required.
  • The EU and certain EaP partners could also develop “soft” military cooperation, such as making changes to military education, combat training, organisational procedures, military planning, doctrine, tactics, and so on.

Many EU member states would be ready to boost such “soft cooperation,” and the effectiveness of these efforts would increase significantly if the EU allocated part of its neighbourhood funding to such “soft” defence cooperation. Relatively cheap measures would be the following:  admitting officers from EaP countries to the military Erasmus programme, offering EU funding for Eastern Partnership officers to study in military academies across the EU at various stages of their careers, providing experts to revise military education and training in EaP countries.

  • A specialised joint EU-EaP security platform to counter hybrid threats should be launched. The EU should support EaP partners in developing and implementing national mechanisms for effective early warning and early response to hybrid threats.

Source: New Europe Centre

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