2020 will be a year of designing future Eastern Partnership: EU spokesperson

2020 will be the last year of the current Eastern Partnership policy framework, Peter Stano, EU Spokesperson for External Relations, told Trend.

“Therefore, 2020 will be a year of implementation but also a year of designing the future Eastern Partnership. As regards the future of the Eastern Partnership, a consultation on the future of the Eastern Partnership was launched by President Juncker last May at the High-Level Conference on the 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. The consultation lasted until end October and was broad and inclusive: we received over 200 contributions from a broad variety of stakeholders including governments, parliaments, civil society, think tanks, private sector, youth, academia and international organisations. All 6 partner countries and the vast majority of EU Member States submitted written contributions. We are now analyzing the contributions with the aim to agree the new policy objectives for the Eastern Partnership at the next Summit,” said Stano.

He noted that Azerbaijan is a key partner within the Eastern Partnership.

“At the last Eastern Partnership summit in 2017 we renewed our joint engagement towards comprehensive reforms in all partner countries – including Azerbaijan. Through the jointly agreed “20 deliverables for 2020” agenda we are bringing tangible benefits to citizens across the Eastern Partnership, including Azerbaijan. Overall cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan has developed, in particular with the endorsement of the partnership priorities in September 2018, which guide our cooperation in 4 key sectors: i) strengthening institutions and good governance, ii) economic development and market opportunities, iii) connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate action, and iv) mobility and people-to-people contacts. We are also currently negotiating with Azerbaijan a new comprehensive agreement based on the latest international standards, which should further support the diversification of Azerbaijani economy. The agreement, replacing the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement from 1999, would be beneficial to both the EU and Azerbaijan. Hopefully a final agreement can be reached soon,” Stano explained.

As regards implementation of the 20 deliverables agenda, he said the sides are already achieving tangible results for citizens and businesses in three of the four main priority areas of the Eastern Partnership policy framework, namely stronger economy, stronger connectivity and stronger society.

“In these areas we can build on progress achieved to date, for instance when it comes to: i) stronger economy, where EU support brought benefits to more than 70,000 Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, backing €2 billion worth of loans, and creating more than 30,000 jobs; ii) stronger connectivity, where implementation of agreed priority investments to extend the Trans-European Networks for Transport will bring 5,000 km of roads and railways, ports and logistical centres; and, iii) stronger society, where Erasmus+ has enabled over 32,000 academic exchanges with partner countries and over 80,000 youth, mobility and volunteering exchanges. When it comes to the fourth pillar, stronger governance, there are some initial positive results, such as the provision of public service delivery through one-stop-shops in all six countries. However, much more can and needs to be achieved,” he concluded.

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) is a joint initiative involving the EU, its Member States and six Eastern European Partners: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia.