Eastern Partnership at 10
The EU and six partner countries' celebration was overshadowed by an Azerbaijani obstructionEuropost
Officials of the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine - met in Brussels on 13-14 May to celebrate its success and achievements so far, to reiterate the programme importance as well as to reflect on the future of the continued strategic and ambitious partnership. But the 10-year anniversary was overshadowed by a challenge.
According to EU sources, the initial idea for the purpose of the meeting was “to develop the Eastern Partnership agenda beyond 2020”, but that was dropped by EU foreign ministers at their last gathering. The change came because Azerbaijan was unhappy that the text of the statement did not mention the issue of territorial integrity. Instead of being signed by all participants, it was approved only by the chairperson of the meeting - EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini.
“We reaffirm the joint commitments enshrined in the Eastern Partnership Summit declarations; and to underline our firm intention to carry them forward,” the celebratory statement said.
“Let's replace the use of arms by the rule of law, this is something we must strive for every day,” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, speaking at the event. “And we must also put an end to bilateral conflicts between different countries of eastern Europe. So that all conflicts - frozen or not - come to an end, we have to have peace in our immediate neighbourhood. Otherwise we won't be able to mobilise all the energies that we could to make progress towards cohesion among our countries.”
The Eastern Partnership has already delivered through simplified procedures some 3.8 million visas to citizens of the six states, the EU officials said. Some 80,000 students from the six have been able to take part in Erasmus, the EU's university exchange programme, and trade flows between the bloc and the group reached €74bn in 2018.
European Council President Donald Tusk hosted a celebratory dinner for the six heads of state or government of the Eastern Partnership countries on 13 May. President Juncker, Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini and Commissioner Johannes Hahn, as well as Radoslaw Sikorski and Carl Bildt, former foreign ministers of Poland and Sweden, respectively, and initiators of the Eastern Partnership framework back in 2008, were also in attendance.