Future of the Eastern Partnership: a new European strategy for the East

Submitted by Political Commission 3: External Affairs & Global Governance
Adopted by the online Federal Committee on 26 June 2021. Re-adopted and amended by the Federal Committee on 11 November 2023 in Madrid, Spain. 
The Eastern Partnership (EaP), within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy, is a policy of strategic interest to the European Union (EU) and should therefore be reformed so that it may enable an even greater level of cooperation. EaP countries and their citizens have a wish for closer European integration. Russia still harbours imperialist ambitions on ex-Soviet republics, instead of respecting their independence and freedom to choose their own future. This causes friction between the EU and Russia as well as within the countries themselves.
The European Union should demonstrate that it is the main partner for dialogue and cooperation with EaP countries, as well as the best equipped global actor to guarantee peace, stability, progress and respect for democracy and human rights. JEF Europe therefore calls for a radical shift in the EU’s foreign policy towards the Eastern Partnership, in particular for the continuation of the negotiation process to gauge the willingness and capacity of some of these countries to pursue European integration and for countering the anti-EU and anti-democratic tendencies of others.
JEF Europe,
  1. Recalling JEF Europe’s resolutions, a) “For a common European response to the invasion of Ukraine and the future of Ukraine”; b) “The EU response to the Russian Federation’s aggression of Ukraine” strongly condemning the ongoing Russian invasion of the territory of Ukraine and urging for continued EU support to Ukraine;
  2. Noticing the limits of the EU’s foreign policy and the related unanimity rule in the framework of the ENP, which is too often constrained and paralysed by the conflicting positions of the Member States in the Council;
  3. Deeply concerned about the social and human consequences of the ongoing and frozen conflicts and disputes in the Eastern Partnership countries, and rejecting all forms of conflict and violence perpetrated as an expression of foreign policy;
  4. Denouncing Russian measures aimed at destabilising EaP countries through trade embargoes or the conclusion of integration treaties with separatist or breakaway regions, such as South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria and illegally occupied regions of Ukraine, under the misguided notion that the Russian Federation is the supposed protector of ethnic or linguistic groups outside the borders of its own state;
  5. Noting with regret the insufficient reaction of the EU to Russia’s violation of Georgian territorial integrity in 2008 and the consequent emboldening of Russia;
  6. Having regarded the implementation of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement in 2019;
  7. Deeply Concerned about the 2023 takeover of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijan which has lead to the fleeing of the Armenian population due to fear of ethnic violence and the total absence of European Union intervention and capability to speak with a united voice;
  8. Deeply Concerned that following decoupling from Russia the EU has become increasingly dependent on other non-democratic regimes like Azerbaijan for energy;
  9. Noting, with concern, Turkey’s growing interest in colonialist strategies in the eastern Mediterranean and South Caucasus;
  10. Deeply concerned about the developments in Belarus since the latest undemocratic election of Lukashenka and the courageous, peaceful and fair demonstrations by the population, and strongly condemning the continued brutal response of the authorities;
  11. Further concerned by the increasing dependence of Belarus to Russia, with increased Russian military presence as well as the one of members of the former Wagner militia;
Also, deeply concerned about the significant challenges faced by the EaP countries in ensuring an adequate level of human rights standards, as well as the state of democracy and the rule of law;
Reiterating the importance of freedom of the media, freedom of expression and the activities of non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders, especially represented in youth organisations, in shaping public opinion based on factual information free from foreign interference, hybrid threats and disinformation;
Recalling the essential contribution of the civil society organisations, such as the members of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, regarding the quality of democracy and their important involvement in the dialogue between the European institutions and the EaP countries;
Applauding the progress made by Ukraine and Moldova towards EU membership, and welcoming the European Council’s decision to grant both countries candidate status, and to recognise the European integration prospects of Georgia;
Regarding the courage of Georgian citizens in their opposition against the law on the “transparency of foreign influence”, yet still concerned about democratic backsliding and anti-European tendencies in Georgia;
Acknowledging that the ‘Beyond 2020’ framework on the Eastern Partnership, has become obsolete with the start of the enlargement process of the trio countries;
  1.  Reminding that Democracy under Pressure, which aims to raise awareness of democratic backsliding, human rights abuses, and challenges to the rule of law, initially in Belarus, is one of JEF’s oldest campaigns, and – sadly – has lost none of its relevance;
JEF Europe therefore,
  1. Reiterates the EU’s commitment to strengthening multilateralism and recalls the importance of developing a common European foreign policy as the only way to pursue peace and international justice;
  2. Insists that the most important area on which the EaP should be focused is the advancement of the respect for human rights, the rule of law and achieving a higher standard of democracy;
  3. Encourages the EU institutions to further intensify their cooperation with the Council of Europe (CoE) and the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in monitoring and implementing strategies and practices aimed at improving the level of democracy, the rule of law and achieving the expression of political and civil rights for all citizens;
  4. Calls on the EU to expand the scope of sanctions on Belarus, to maintain these sanctions until free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections are held in the country;
  5. Stresses the importance of supporting local independent civil society activists and NGOs, human rights defenders, universities, research centres, and the democratic movements in opposition to non-democratic EaP regimes in order to promote democratic values, fundamental freedoms and human rights;;
  6. Urges the EU to have a strong role in negotiating sustainable solutions to conflicts in the EaP region;
  7. Urges the EU to support EaP countries in their struggle for the recognition of their rights under international law, such as, but not limited to, the United Nations Charter, especially with regard to its provisions regarding territorial integrity within their internationally recognised borders;
  8. Calls the EU to set clear its intentions towards the EaP countries, particularly towards the countries striving for European integration, for a greater economic, societal and political integration and to ensure not only their economic development but also to enhance their security against Russian aggression and reduce their dependence on Russia;
  9. Insists on the need to implement economic agreements (such as the Association Agreements) as an instrument for tying together the EaP countries’ markets and the EU and to support any improvement in economic and financial performance;
  10. Stresses the importance of supporting local independent civil society activists and NGOs, human rights defenders, universities, research centres, city partnerships, youth offices and the democratic movements in opposition to non-democratic EaP regimes in order to promote democratic values, fundamental freedoms and human rights;
  11. Insists on the role that the EU, in cooperation with civil society organisations, must take in promoting civil and political rights, in ensuring the protection of ethnic and religious minorities, and in defending the civil rights of the most discriminated and harassed members of society, including of those in the LGBTQI+ community;
  12. Urges the EU to provide dedicated support and promote in the new EaP framework the importance of media freedom and impartial and reliable information, ensuring high journalistic standards, and media literacy in the population, which are among the fundamental factors of functioning democracies;
  13. Reiterates the importance for the EU to draw greater emphasis in the EaP on the younger generations, to promote high education standards, to implement programmes for mobility and integration for students but also for young entrepreneurs and workers;
  14. Demands that the EU commits itself to developing its enlargement agenda towards the east which should include countries like Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia once they have successfully proved they are eligible for EU accession negotiations;
  15. Calls on the EU to formulate a new strategy reforming the “Beyond 2020” framework that can ensure and strengthen the cohesion and integration of the EaP countries with the EU, and also highlights country specificities and different paths for implementing further integration;
  16. Reiterates to support strategies aimed at fostering greater political cooperation between EaP countries aspiring towards European integration;
  17. Supports the identification of new areas for deeper integration and cooperation between the EU and the EaP countries, such as local and regional transport and interconnectivity, digital services and renewable energy.
  18. Calls on the EU to increase visibility by granting observer status to Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia as well as Western Balkans in the European Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.