Brussels, 26 November 2013
Eastern Partnership summit
Vilnius, 28-29 November 2013
The third Eastern Partnership summit will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania on 28-29 November 2013. It will bring together heads of state or government from the 28 EU member states with those of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The summit will be chaired by the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy who, together with the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, will represent the European Union. The summit will be hosted by the President of Republic of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite.
The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, the Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, and the Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, will also attend the summit.
The six partner countries will be represented by the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, President Georgi Margvelashvili of Georgia, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca and Vladimir Makey, Foreign Minister of Belarus.
The Vilnius summit will review progress in establishing new Association Agreements, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTAs) between the EU and some partner countries. These agreements are designed to support reform with the aim to accelerate political association and economic integration. Association Agreements, including DCFTAs, are expected to be initialled with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. The offer of signing an unprecedented Association Agreement and DCFTA with Ukraine is still on the table. This requires the necessary political will by the Ukrainian leadership, determined action and tangible progress on the conditions set out in December 2012.
A visa facilitation agreement with Azerbaijan and a framework agreement on Georgia's participation in EU crisis management missions are expected to be signed at the summit. An aviation agreement with Ukraine is also expected to be initialled.
The participants are expected to take stock of other progress made in the Partnership, welcome the conclusion and implementation of Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements and to agree on an ambitious agenda for the way ahead. The Vilnius summit is to set out a number of goals to be attained by the Partnership by 2015.
In line with the incentive based approach ("more-for-more") key themes for the partnership in the coming years should be: implementation of Association Agreements, strengthening of democracy and rule of law through the pursuit of reform of the judiciary, further steps in economic integration, gradual steps towards visa free regimes, energy security and strengthening the Partnership’s multilateral dimension, enhancing the involvement of civil society in general and the business community in particular.
A joint summit declaration will be adopted.
The EU's Eastern Partnership was launched at the Prague Eastern Partnership summit in May 2009. A second summit was held in Warsaw in September 2011. It concerns six partner countries in Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus: the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Through this initiative, the EU supports reforms in the partner countries that are aimed at consolidating democracy, the rule of law, the respect for human rights and an open market economy. At the same time, it offers gradual integration into the European economy, greater mobility for citizens and closer political ties.
Closer economic ties
The Eastern Partnership provides for Association Agreements with each of the participating states, which are to replace the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreements. Negotiations for them have been launched in January 2010 with the Republic of Moldova and in July 2010 with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Moldova completed its negotiations in June 2013 and Georgia in July 2013. Both countries are expected to initial their respective agreements at the Vilnius summit. The new accords include agreements on deep and comprehensive free trade areas. The EU has been negotiating with Ukraine since March 2007 for an Association Agreement and since February 2008 an agreement on a deep and comprehensive free trade area. These talks were concluded in 2012 and provided that Ukraine demonstrates determined action and tangible progress in areas set out by the EU in December 2012, the agreements could be signed in Vilnius. Since Azerbaijan is not yet a member of the WTO, a DCFTA with that country cannot be envisaged at this moment.
Nearly 2.5 billion euro has been committed by the EU during the 2010-13 period aimed at supporting partners’ reform furthering democratic and economic development. Furthermore, the European Investment Bank has stepped up its lending activity in the partner countries from 631 million euro in 2010 to an estimated 1.8 billion euro in 2013.
The negotiations for closer economic integration are complemented by the comprehensive institution building programme. It provides supports to key institutions of partner countries in the areas linked to the Association Agreements, DCFTAs, and the dialogue on mobility. A budget of EUR 167 million is available for this purpose.
Moreover, a total of EUR 62 million is reserved for pilot regional development programmes in partner states. Modelled on the EU cohesion policy, they are aimed at addressing economic and social imbalances through the development of local infrastructure, human resources and small- and medium-sized companies.
Visa liberalisation remains a shared objective of individual partner countries and the EU alike. This is a core objective of the Eastern Partnership and will be discussed by heads of state at the summit. Considerable progress has been made in the area of visa facilitation and liberalisation: with signature of an EU-Azerbaijan agreement at the summit, five out of six partners (all but Belarus) already have or will soon have Visa Facilitation Agreements with the EU; three of them (Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) have managed to advance even more – they now have Visa Liberalisation Actions Plans, prepared specifically to them, full and effective implementation of which will bring these countries visa free travels with the EU.
The establishing and the strengthening of the multilateral cooperation dimension, complementing the various bilateral cooperation and draft agreements, has proved a valuable forum for sharing information on and experience on transition processes, reform and modernisation. This dimension now includes senior officials and experts working in a number of different areas, from agriculture, research and environment to trade, migration and the EU's Common Security and Defense Policy.
Sectorial cooperation has also been enhanced, with the first Eastern partnership ministerial meetings in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs, and Transport, held in October 2013, in Luxembourg. In the field of justice large cooperation programmes have been launched and implemented in several countries, contributing to the improvement of democratic governance. Effective implementation of reforms in the area of justice remains key to further development of cooperation between the EU and its partners. On transport, achievements have made in improving infrastructure connections between the EU and the Partnership region. The summit is expected to welcome the adoption of an Eastern partnership regional transport network that indicates connections with the trans European transport networks and a list of priority projects agreed at the ministerial meeting in Luxembourg. The EU has also concluded Common Aviation Area Agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. It is also expected to sign with Ukraine at the summit and has launched negotiations with Azerbaijan. These are concrete contributions in bringing the partner closer.
The summit and side events
Meetings of Heads of State and government within the Eastern Partnership are held every two years whereas foreign ministers meet every year. During these meetings, the implementation and the results of the Eastern Partnership are discussed, the objectives for the next two years are determined and the prospects for the future are drawn. The next summit will be held in Riga in the first half of 2015.
Since 2011, the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, bringing together members of the European Parliament with elected representatives from the six partner countries, are meeting regularly. A Civil Society Forum has also been established for representatives from the civil society of countries participating in the Eastern Partnership initiative and the EU (to be held in the margins of the summit). The Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of the Eastern Partnership have also been established to complement the intergovernmental strand.
Furthermore, and underlining the importance given to the role of civil society within the Eastern Partnership, this year, for the second time, a Business Forum is to be held in the margins of the summit in Vilnius and a Youth Forum was held in Kaunas (Lithuania) on 22-25 October 2013.