The priority direction of regional cooperation within the framework of European integration processes for NCCIR is participation in the activities of the EU Eastern Partnership Initiative.
Eastern Partnership is the European Union foreign policy initiative, which extends to 28 EU member states and six EU Eastern European neighbours Azerbaijan, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The initiative was launched on May 7, 2009 at the Prague Constituent Summit on the proposal of Poland and Sweden to deepen cooperation between the countries of Eastern Europe and Southern Caucasus with the EU and the renewal of the agreements by means of substitution of the agreements on partnership and cooperation on Association Agreements, the establishment of in-depth and comprehensive free trade zones (FTZ), liberalization of the visa regime between the EU and partner countries, etc.
The launch of the Eastern Partnership has led to a delimitation of the EU foreign policy approaches to relations with its southern and eastern neighbours, which were previously under the same conditions of the European Neighbourhood Policy. From the point of view of Ukraine, this was a step in the right direction, since the Eastern neighbours are European states and can apply for EU membership if they meet the relevant criteria.
The strategic interest of Ukraine concerning the Eastern Partnership is to provide the interested partner countries with the prospect of EU membership and, consequently, to turn the initiative into a connecting link with the EU enlargement policy.
The realization of the Eastern Partnership is based on the principles of differentiation, joint ownership and shared responsibility, and the “more for more” approach (the greater the progress of the partner countries in implementing reforms, the greater support they receive from the EU).
In addition to the EU's bilateral relations with partner countries and a number of bilateral programs, the Eastern Partnership also provides a multilateral dimension of cooperation.
Bilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership
The EU considers the Eastern Partnership as an integral part of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which is the EU framework policy towards neighbouring countries. That is, from the point of view of the EU, the whole array of bilateral relations between Ukraine and the EU (and other Eastern partners) is a bilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership.
Taking into account that the Eastern Partnership is based on the main achievements that Ukraine has already achieved in its relations with the EU (negotiation process on an Association Agreement, visa-free dialogue, etc.), our state regards the Eastern Partnership not as a framework policy, but rather as an addition to the more ambitious bilateral format for its relations with the EU.
Thus, Ukraine’s unconditional priority is to develop relations with the EU in a bilateral format, while the Eastern Partnership is seen primarily as a forum for multilateral dialogue on the implementation of reforms and relations with the EU.
Multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership
The multilateral dimension operates on four levels:
- Summits with the participation of heads of state and government of the EU Member States and partner countries are held every two years. As a result of the Summit, joint statements are adopted.
Summits held: Constituent Summit - May 7, 2009 in Prague; Second summit - September 29-30, 2011 in Warsaw; Third Summit - November 28-29, 2013 in Vilnius; Fourth summit - May 21-22, 2015 in Riga; Fifth summit - November 24, 2017 in Brussels.
- Ministerial meeting of the EU and partner countries. Conducted, as a rule, once a year in Brussels.
The sessions are dedicated to assessing the progress made and discussing the prospects for further development of relations. Political approval of the main objectives and working programs of the Eastern Partnership multilateral thematic platforms is taking place.
As a part of the multilateral dimension, the following actions are also conducted:
Informal dialogue at the level of foreign ministers and sector ministers of the EU partner countries and Commissioners on multilateral sectorial cooperation and the overall development of the initiative;
The civil society forum is organized for the broad engagement of the public. The purpose of the Forum is to develop contacts between non-governmental organizations and facilitate their dialogue with public authorities. It operates on the basis of the relevant thematic platforms, receives financial support from the European Commission. Each of the partner countries has formed the national platforms of the Forum. The Ukrainian national platform of the Forum unites over 150 non-governmental organizations of Ukraine;
Parliamentary dimension is provided by the Parliamentary Assembly of Euronest, in which Ukraine is represented by the Permanent Delegation of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
Thematic Platforms of the Eastern Partnership
The purpose of thematic platforms is exchange of information and experience of the partner countries in the context of reforms and transformations. They also facilitate the establishment of direct links between experts from partner states and the EU Member States. Meetings of each thematic platform take place at least twice a year. Platforms are reporting to annual meetings of foreign ministers. Within each thematic platform, work programs are adopted for the next period (per year).
The following thematic platforms are currently active:
1. "Democracy, good governance and stability"
Considers democracy and human rights; justice and home affairs; security and stability.
2. " Economic integration & convergence with EU policies "
Considers trade and regulatory approximation; social and economic development; environmental and climate change.
3. "Energy security"
It considers strengthening solidarity; support for infrastructure development, interconnections and diversification of supply; harmonization of energy policies.
4. "People-to-people contacts"
Considers issues on culture; education and science; information society and media.
Working groups (panels) to support the work of thematic platforms in specific areas.