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

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 taken to an even higher level of cooperation. The geopolitical importance of the countries that are part of the EaP framework is one of the main reasons that triggers disputes and frictions between the EU and Russia, which only increase citizens’ discomfort towards both.

The European Union should demonstrate that it is the main player 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, and in particular for the opening of the negotiation process to gauge the willingness and capacity of some of these countries to become official candidates for accession to the EU.

JEF Europe,

  1. Recalling JEF Europe’s resolutions, a) “For a common European response to the Ukraine crisis and the Ukrainian transformation process”; b) “EU Foreign Policy towards Russia”.
  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 Crimea, 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 the Russia’s aggression and violation of the Georgian territorial integrity and the evident division between Western European and Central and Eastern European Member States starting to become apparent over the relationship with Russia;
  6. Having regarded the implementation of the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement in 2019, including the efforts of the Co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group to facilitate the peaceful settlement of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan;
  7. Deploring the 2020 escalation of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh between the forces supported by Russia and Turkey and the total absence of European Union intervention and capability to speak with a united voice, and also highlighting the absence of an EU seat in the Minsk Group;
  8. Noting, with concern, Turkey’s growing interest in colonialist strategies in the eastern Mediterranean and South Caucasus;
  9. Considering the key role of the region for the security of energy supply to the EU, and in particular the Southern Gas Corridor, originating in Azerbaijan, of which the EU is the biggest customer of Azerbaijani oil;
  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 brutal response of the authorities;
  11. 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;
  12. 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;
  13. 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;
  14. Noting that Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, the so-called ‘trio-countries’, have been increasingly cooperating with the EU and its Member States and have clearly expressed aspirations for a further integration with the EU;
  15. Acknowledging that within the ‘Beyond 2020’ framework on the Eastern Partnership, there is no room to become a potential candidate country and therefore the so-called ‘more for more’ principles might lose credibility and actions of the EU in the region.

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 and the rule of law and achieving a higher standard of democracy as the fundamentals of the EaP since 2009;
  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 be maintained until free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections are held in the country;
  5. Supports the inclusion of a special seat for the EU in the framework of the Minsk Group as an essential global actor for a peaceful and lasting solution of the conflict;
  6. Calls the EU to set clear its intentions towards the EaP countries, particularly towards the ‘trio countries’, for a greater economic and political integration and to ensure not only their economic development but also to reduce their dependence on Russia;
  7. Insists on the need to implement economic agreements (such as the Association Agreements) as an instrument for integrating the market and the country into the EU’s area of influence and to support any improvement in economic and financial performance;
  8. Stresses the importance to support local independent civil society activists and NGOs, human rights defenders, universities and research centres in order to promote democratic values, fundamental freedoms and human rights;
  9. Insist on the role that the EU, in cooperation with civil society organisations, must take in promoting civil and political rights, ensuring the protection of ethnic and religious minorities, and defending the civil rights of the most discriminated and harassed members of society, including those in the LGBTQI+ community;
  10. 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 the fundamental factors of functioning democracies;
  11. Reiterates the importance for the EU to draw greater emphasis in the EaP on the younger generations, promote high education standards, implement programmes for mobility and integration for students but also for young entrepreneurs and workers;
  12. Demands that the EU commits itself to building a new enlargement agenda towards the east which should include countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, once they have successfully proved they are eligible for EU accession negotiation;
  13. Calls on the EU to formulate a new strategy that can ensure and strengthen the cohesion and integration of the EaP countries with the EU and highlights country specificities and different paths for implementing further integration;
  14. Reiterates to support strategies aimed at fostering greater political cooperation between the EaP countries;
  15. Supports the identification of new areas for deeper integration and cooperation, such as local and regional transport and interconnectivity, digital services and renewable energy.