The Eastern Partnership: Getting Down To Work

Four weeks after the launch of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) the EU and its eastern neighbours 1 are getting down to work. One of the innovations of the EaP is a new multilateral dimension to relations with these countries alongside the bilateral path of cooperation . The first Eastern Partnership (EaP) multilateral platform held, 5 June, in Brussels. It  focus on democracy, good governance and stability. The other platforms, devoted to economic integration, energy and people to people contacts, will also be launched during the month of June. The aim of the platforms is to support the eastern partners' efforts to approximate to EU standards, to foster exchanges of experience and best practice and to strengthen contacts between them. Tomorrow's meeting will concentrate on mapping out fields for co operation, and will discuss the launch of two Flagship Initiatives, on border management and prevention, preparedness and response to disasters.

“The European Commission has wasted no time in getting this new initiative off the ground. The launch of the multilateral platforms is key to the success of the Eastern Partnership.Benita Ferrero Waldner I hope that it will bring very concrete support to our partners' reform efforts, as well as deepening mutual understanding " said Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. She added:"The first platform is devoted to governance issues which are at the heart of this partnership. Respect for citizens' rights, and the rule of law, with a vibrant civil society are key elements of the democratic societies we hope to see grow in these countries. While our partners are all in different situations and stages of transition, they face similar challenges, so a multilateral approach can bring real value added".

The Eastern Partnership brings countries in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus, EU Member States and institutions together to promote security, stability and prosperity. It provides additional support for reforms and modernization efforts in partner countries, bringing them closer to EU principles and practices. This initiative builds on the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy by developing its specific Eastern dimension.

In addition to strengthening the bilateral relationship between the EU and the partner countries of the EaP multilateral platforms provide a framework to improve understanding of EU legislation and standards, to share experience, and develop joint activities within the Eastern Partnership initiative.

The whole-day meeting on 5 June chaired by the Commission within the multilateral thematic platform on Democracy, good governance and stability marks the beginning of the implementation phase of the Partnership. Representatives of the six partner countries, the EU Member States, the Council Secretariat, and the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee will participate in the working sessions.

Two flagship projects will be presented in this first meeting: “Integrated Border Management” programme and “Prevention of, preparedness for, and response to natural and man-made disasters” (which should be already launched before the end of 2009). The other flagship initiatives include: integration of electricity markets, energy efficiency and renewables; a SME facility; and diversification of energy supply.

First meetings of other EaP platforms will take place in June in Brussels:
•    on Contacts between people on 10 June;
•    on Energy security on 17 June; and
•    on Economic integration and convergence with EU policies on 26 th of June.
In the last two platforms the European Investment Bank (EIB) and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will also participate.