Eastern Partnership: stronger together
After the restoration of independence Lithuania’s main foreign policy achievements served ground for the country to become the competent member of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The experience Lithuania gained is playing significant role in assisting other Eastern European countries on their way to Euro-Atlantic integration. It comes as a priority of current Lithuanian Government’ program 2016-2020, to enhance the value based relationship with six Eastern European Partner countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine as well endorsing their European aspirations through the Eastern Partnership.
Eastern Partnership is a unique EU foreign policy tool providing long-term strategy for partners to carry out sustainable reforms and it foresees the ways in which the EU can help to accelerate them. As agreed at the Prague Summit in May 2009 the aim of the Eastern Partnership is to support reforms in Eastern European countries and promote closer political association and economic integration with the EU.
Objectives of the Eastern Partnership were reconfirmed by the following Summits in Warsaw (27-28 September 2011), Vilnius (28-29 November 2013) and Riga (21-22 May 2015). The 5th Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels (24 November, 2017), to be organised under the aegis of the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council (2nd half 2017), will steer the Eastern Partnership policy forward.
The two-track approach of the Eastern partnership - bilateral and multilateral will remain central in this cooperation whereas the bilateral relations are dedicated to develop closer cooperation between the EU and Eastern European Partner countries. Whilst the multilateral cooperation being relevant for all the six Eastern European Partners brings partners closer serves as a platform of exchanges and cooperation of the best practice gained. Each Eastern European State is free to choose their level of relationship with the EU and the objectives they wish to pursue. Lithuania strongly supports ambitious aspirations of the Eastern partners on their European future.
As agreed at the Summit in Riga (May 2015) practical cooperation under the Eastern Partnership is driven by the four main "Eastern Partnership priorities": 1. economic development and market opportunities; 2. strengthening institutions and good governance; 3. connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change; 4. mobility and people-to-people contacts. In the run up to the Summit in Brussels (November 2017), the stock-taking will be taken on what was achieved within the Eastern Partnership from Riga to Brussels Summit. For this, the joint staff working document is provided by the EU High Representative and the European Commission (December 2016) "Eastern Partnership - Focusing on key priorities and deliverables" that identifies 20 deliverables for 2020 in the four priority. Lithuania takes position that beyond the tools for practical cooperation there should be an agreement on the Eastern Partnership strategic vision forward at the Summit in Brussels.
Strategic ambition of the EU Eastern Partnership is to support reforms in the Eastern European countries and promote closer political association and economic integration with the EU. The EU has concluded the ambitious Association Agreements, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) between the EU and Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. By its depth and width, these agreements have no analogue in the history of the EU's international agreements. They provide not only progressive trade liberalization but also a compatibility and linkage of Eastern Partners national law with the EU acquis.
EU - Ukraine Association Agreement (signed on 27 of June 2014 in Brussels; DCFTA provisionally applied since 1st January 2016 the ratification is yet to be finalised in 2017;).
EU – Republic of Moldova Association Agreement (signed on 27 of June 2014 in Brussels; in force since 1st July 2016).
EU – Georgia Association Agreement (signed on 27 of June 2014 in Brussels, in force since 1st July 2016).
With those partners that do not wish to engage in association agreements with the EU, other forms of bilateral cooperation in mutually beneficial areas remain possible. The EU – Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement was initialled in March 2017 and is to be signed by the Summit in Brussels (November 2017). Negotiations with Azerbaijan on a comprehensive agreement have been launched in 2017 and are continuing. While tangible steps by Belarus to respect democracy and human rights continue to be necessary for the shaping of the EU's future policy towards this country, the EU-Belarus Coordination group was created to give impetus to a more tangible approach to bilateral relations.
The Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels (November 2017) approaching differentiation and inclusiveness of the Eastern Partnership will remain key driving elements. Lithuania supports the differentiated mode of cooperation models with Eastern partners according to their individual level of ambitions and aspiration where priority should be given to those partners who are implementing broad and comprehensive AA/DCFTA related reforms.
Visa regime facilitation and liberalization
Mobility is a key priority within the framework of the Eastern partnership with a final goal of the simplification of the visa regime and its absolute liberalisation with EU partners in the East. First steps in this direction are the Visa Facilitation and Readmission agreements between the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries as well as effective implementation of the agreements once signed and ratified. Following the implementation of this condition, a dialogue on visa liberalisation is started, as well as visa liberalization action plan - VLAP is prepared. In the final phase of visa dialogue and after the VLAP implementation, the EU amends requirements on its side for the citizens of relevant Eastern European Partner country to travel without visa in the EU.
Republic of Moldova is the first Eastern European partner country, which has successfully implemented the Visa liberalisation action plan (VLAP) and the visa – free travel to the Schengen zone entered into force for the citizens of Moldova obtaining the biometric passports (28 April 2014). Following the example of the Republic of Moldova, visa freedom has been granted to Georgia (27 February 2017) and Ukraine (11 May 2017).
The Visa Facilitation and Readmission agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan have entered into force in 2014.
In 2014, the negotiations on the EU and Belarus Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements started. It is expected that negotiations will be finished and both agreements signed by the Eastern partnership Summit in November, Brussels. The Mobility Partnership between the EU and Belarus was signed in October 2016.
Main/key documents of the Eastern Partnership Summits - Joint Declarations:
Joint Declaration of the Warsaw Eastern Partnership Summit (27-28 September 2011)
Joint Declaration of the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit (28-29 November 2013)
Joint Declaration of the Riga Eastern Partnership Summit (2015 May 21-22)
Links to further the information on the Eastern Partnership: