Eastern Partnership Beyond 2020- Context and Expectations
15 June, 2020
Eastern Partnership Beyond 2020- Context and Expectations
The Eastern Partnership (EaP) marked its 10th anniversary in 2019. The round dates always come with reflections and new resolutions for the future. It was the same with the EaP which some would argue that, despite the major achievements, lacked the necessary vision to offer more to its participants in the later stages. In March 2020, the Commission released its Communication called Eastern Partnership beyond 2020 where the EC laid out the major directions in which the relations between the EU
member states and its Eastern neighbours should develop. Considering its weight as a strategic document drafted after 10 years of successful Eastern cooperation, coupled with the current college of Commissioners’ geopolitical positioning, one could assume that its vision would have been somewhat ambitious and daring. However, after its release not everyone deemed it so.

The document’s agenda includes quite extensive topics such as: economy and connectivity, accountable institutions, rule of law, the green transformation, the digital transformation and fair and inclusive societies.

Despite the vast areas of cooperation, the former PM of Lithuania and currently a MEP, Andrius Kubilius called the document “disappointing” in his article on Euractiv. According to Kubilius, the document lacks ambition and does not offer any prospect of membership to the leading members (Associated countries - Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova) of the EaP. Kubilius’s frustration can easily be explained by the fact that the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen claimed that her college of Commissioners would be “geopolitical” meaning that the EU would be more assertive in its strategic presence. Thus, given the previous messages of the EC, Kubilius deemed the document as “kicking the can further down the road” which can trigger a “weakening pro-European motivation in the EaP region” - a vacuum that can be filled by the Kremlin.

There were others who criticised the document too; however not in terms of membership prospect. Gustav Gressel and Nicu Popescu called for the EU that it needed to be more active towards the region in the security domain. “If Europe is indeed ready and willing to become more geopolitical, and strategically autonomous, it is time to show that in its Eastern Partnership policy. One way to do so is to launch an Eastern Partnership Security Compact: an initiative bringing together EU funds and institutions with the capabilities of EU member states willing to boost security cooperation with EU’s neighbours”, - stated the authors.

Despite the criticism, the derivable objectives offered by the document remain still interesting for the EaP countries, especially, in terms of relevant and currently discussed directions. As for Georgia, given the ongoing pandemic, the cooperation in the healthcare domain should be a matter of priority. Considering the frequent cyber attacks, assistance in cybersecurity should also be another interesting domain for the country.

However, since the ambitions of the Associated countries can go beyond the listed directions, there is still space for the Eastern Neighbours to negotiate the corrections in the document. Naturally, the extent of the corrections would be limited - but the 18th June Eastern Partnership leaders' video conference can be a format for it. The video conference will bring together the heads of the 27 member states of the EU and leaders from the Eastern Partnership countries. Given the presence of high officials, the leader’s video conference seems to be a right place for the Associated countries, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova to offer their counterparts their own version of two-speed Eastern Partnership. In other words, if the EU is not ready for a more ambitious plan for the EaP at the given moment, the least the Associated countries can do is to come up with more intensive dialogue format where the European Union will be able to negotiate more concrete and daring objectives with its partners once it’s prepared to do so. The supposed format is usually referred as “quadrilogue”, a 3+1 platform which would bring together the EU, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. According to the CEPS exprets, “to open a ‘quadrilogue’ with the EU to treat matters of common concern to them, and which are not relevant or plausible in relation to the other EaP states, is a glaring omission that could still be corrected at the EaP summit on 18 June.” Although it remains hard to say if any concrete decision can be made about such a format, coordinatively raising the initiative at the high level might bear fruit for the next physical EaP Summit due to take place in 2021.

Author: Giorgi Jgharkava

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