Eastern Partnership ministers take stock of progress
The Eastern Partnership Roadmap to the autumn 2013 Summit was among the issues raised at yesterday’s Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting in Brussels, which EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashtondescribed as a frank, open and thorough discussion between 27 member states and 6 partners on the “ambitious agenda of political association and economic integration”.
Ministers heard the views of the Civil Society Forum on the implementation of the Eastern Partnership, the Conclusions of the meeting said, adding that participants discussed concerns about the situation in certain partner countries “related to the values and principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law on which the Eastern Partnership is based”.
Participants also reviewed the progress achieved in the bilateral track of the Eastern Partnership, including the conclusion of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, the headway in negotiations on similar agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, as well as negotiations on an Association Agreement with Azerbaijan.
As regards mobility of citizens, Moldova and Ukraine are already implementing Visa Liberalisation Action Plans while a dialogue with Georgia to draw up a similar Action Plan has recently been launched. Negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements are under way with Armenia and Azerbaijan, and a similar offer has been extended to Belarus.
Touching upon the multilateral track of the Eastern Partnership, ministers noted the work done under the guidance of four thematic Platforms, in particular the launching of cooperation in new areas such as public administration reform, transport and migration and asylum. They also reviewed the ongoing Flagship Initiatives.
Participants highlighted the recent adoption of the Eastern Partnership Integration and Cooperation Programme (EaPIC) offering additional financial support worth €130 million for 2012-13 to countries that make significant progress in reforms in the fields of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Participants welcomed the first meeting of the new informal Eastern Partnership dialogues, which took place in Chisinau on 5 June 2012 and laid the foundations for a new format of consultations for the further development of political and sector cooperation between the EU and partners.
In her remarks following the ministerial meeting, Catherine Ashton said the discussions “will enable us to better tailor our policy toward partner countries so that we can keep the Partnership as inclusive as possible. This will also help us to accommodate specific needs and ambitions of those who are the most advanced on the implementation of the agreed goals.”
Reforms and genuine commitment to common values of freedom, democracy and human rights remain the underpinning elements of the Partnership, the High Representative stressed. (EU Neighbourhood Info Centre