The Eastern Partnership
12.12.2012 / 10:17
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) – the policy of the European Union towards six Eastern European countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) – is one of the long term priorities of the Czech foreign policy, both on the EU and the bilateral level.
By developing the Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy which includes both Southern and Eastern dimension we aim for substantial deepening of relations between the six partner countries and the EU.
The Czech foreign policy started to deal with the idea of the Eastern Partnership long before the Czech EU Presidency in 2009. The EU lacked a coherent concept of policy towards Eastern Europe, thus the inception of the Eastern Partnership represents a historical and strategic step toward greater engagement of the EU with the Eastern neighbours.
The Eastern Partnership Summit in Prague on May 7, 2009, adopted the joint Prague Declaration of the Eastern Partnership, negotiated by the Czech EU Presidency in line with the mandate articulated by the European Council Conclusions from March 2009.
The main purpose of the Eastern Partnership is to create conditions necessary for deepening political cooperation and further economic integration between the European Union and six partner countries. The Eastern Partnership is based on the “joint ownership” principle which means maximum involvement of the partner countries in preparation and execution of the EU policy towards them.
The Eastern Partnership consists of the bilateral and multilateral dimensions. Within the bilateral dimension, the EU negotiates with some partner countries the Association Agreements as well as the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements. There is also progress regarding the visa policy, namely through the negotiations on the visa facilitation and readmission agreements or through the dialogue on visa liberalization (steps towards the visa free regime).
The four platforms are the main tool of the Eastern Partnership multilateral track. They reflect main areas of cooperation, namely:
- Democracy, good governance and stability (Platform 1);
- Economic integration and convergence with EU policies (Platform 2);
- Energy security (Platform 3);
- Contacts between people (Platform 4).
Meetings of the platforms are held at least twice a year at the level of senior officials. Within the platforms, there are several thematic panels as well as “flagship initiatives” of the EaP.
Apart from the intergovernmental level, the parliamentary dimension of the Eastern Partnership is provided by the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly that includes members of the European Parliament together with all EaP countries but Belarus. Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) provides a framework for cooperation between the municipalities.
The Civil Society Forum (CSF) enables involvement of non-governmental organizations, think-tanks, foundations, trade unions and employers´ associations within this policy. Based on the fact that cooperation with and support to the civil society is one of the priorities of the Czech foreign policy, a conference “Eastern Partnership: Towards Civil Society Forum” was held at the premises of the Foreign Ministry in Prague in May 2009. This event paved the way to the creation of the Civil Society Forum of the EaP.
Czech Activities within the Eastern Partnership
The Czech Republic actively supports the implementation and further development of the Eastern Partnership and is actively involved in the debate on the EaP within the European Union. Active Czech policy in the EaP region is further strengthened by the fact that the Foreign Ministry has established diplomatic missions of the Czech Republic in all six partners countries (most recently in Armenia).
Czech support to the civil society in the partner countries continues as well. The Foreign Ministry inter alia supports projects implemented by non-governmental organizations from the partner countries (through the Transition Promotion Programme which is a financial instrument for democracy assistance established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic in 2005).
Thanks to a Czech initiative, the International Visegrad Fund increased funding for projects in the EaP countries. A special “Visegrad 4 Eastern Partnership” grant programme was created. Funding outside of the Visegrad Group was secured for this programme.
Within the EaP Panel on Public Administration Reform, the Czech Republic is a leading country in the field of local and regional administration reform. Expert seminars on local administration were organized by the Foreign Ministry and its partners in Ukraine, Georgia and the Czech Republic.
In 2012, one of the key activities of the Czech Presidency in the Visegrad Group was a ministerial of Visegrád Four, Baltic states and Denmark with their EaP counterparts that took place in Prague on March 5th and whose importance was highlighted by the presence of HR Ashton and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Füle.
The meeting focused primarily on the Eastern Partnership, namely the launch of the “Visegrad 4 Eastern Partnership” programme and the EaP “Road Map”. By enabling partners to discuss the EaP “Road Map” at the high level, the event reinforced the principle of the “joint ownership” in the Eastern Partnership.
Within the Czech Foreign Ministry, the Department of Northern and Eastern Europe together with the Foreign Minister's Special Envoy for the Eastern Partnership Ambassador Petr Mareš are in charge of the Eastern Partnership.