VI Annual Tallinn Conference on the Eastern Partnership
The annual conference marked the passing of ten years since the agreement at the historic Prague Summit between the European Union and the six Eastern Partner countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine establishing the EU’s Eastern Partnership. Also the role of Swedish-Polish original initiative that started Eastern Partnership was stressed.
The VI Annual Tallinn Conference on the Eastern Partnership was organised by the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership in cooperation with the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Commission Representation in Estonia.
Conference participants included Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, State Secretary for Regional Affairs and Multilateral Global Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania Dănuț Sebastian Neculăescu, General Director of Government Office for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine Olga Stefanishyna, former Foreign Minister of Georgia Mikheil Janelidze, Chief Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of the European Council Riina Kionka, Member of the German Bundestag and Coordinator for Intersocietal Cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the Eastern Partnership countries Dirk Wiese, Director of European Commissions DG Near Neighbourhood East Lawrence Meredith and many other opinion leaders and experts.
Prime Minister of Estonia Jüri Ratas stated that the Eastern Partnership (EaP) policy continues to be a priority in Estonian foreign policy. In addition, all six countries are among our most important bilateral development cooperation partners. Estonia will continue to share with them our transition experiences in areas such as establishment of e-governance, conducting administrative reform, strengthening civil society and improving media literacy. Member of the European Parliament Urmas Paet stated that it is essential to continue support EaP countries and especially Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova in all fields of cooperation, including political and security matters.
Conference concluded that the momentum and drive that led to the establishing of the Eastern Partnership policy must not be allowed to diminish. Cooperation and reforms promoting stability, welfare, democracy and economic freedom must continue in the six EU Eastern Partner countries.
Main conclusions of the Conference summarised
- Main conclusion is that there have been new formats and institutions between EU and EaP, EU policy has shifted from a crisis driven and reactive agenda to a more pro-active approach.
- New framework agreements (3AA/DCFTA and1CEPA) and visa freedom agreements have been concluded. In their present cooperation, the EU and its eastern partners should be guided by the 20 goals which were set for the year 2020 at the summit in Brussels in 2017 during the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU. In EU budget the EaP/ ENP funding should remain as a separate budget line.
- Tensions between inclusivity and differentiation within EaP should be overcome, EU should manage EaP countries expectations better, provide new incentives for Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova without imperiling the unity of EaP6.
- EU member states (like Germany) and EU institutions want to concentrate intensifying cooperation and achieving results in agreed priority areas: economic development and market opportunities, strengthening of institutions and good governance, connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change, mobility and people-to-people contacts.
- At the same time Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova want to build closer relations with EU and in the future to accede to the Union. But Armenia is content with the present pragmatic cooperation model.
- Frome EU’s point of view there has been substantial progress achieved in business cooperation, enlarging EI TEN-T transport network to EaP countries. EU wants more regional cooperation between EaP region countries. There is a necessity to improve transport connections between EU and EaP countries as the volumes of trade are increasing.
- The EU’s bigger presence in EaP does not automatically mean a bigger transformative influence; the influence should be based on smart conditionality. From the point of view of the EU there is a need for more effective reforms in the justice system, public administration, fight against corruption and developing free media.
- It was agreed that corruption is not only economic development problem but national security issue for IP countries. Repressive measures alone will not solve the problem; there is need for systemic transformations in all sectors and preventive measures.
- It is also important to continue to support the development of free press in EaP countries. Especially it is important to support local media and to help the local media enterprises to adjust to the media landscape where the influence of social media is growing and also the majority of advertising income is going to social media channels.
- As important progress, the DCFTAs work has provided direct benefits: EaP exports to the EU grow faster than imports from EU; visa freedom agreements generated a virtuous circle (boom in transportation sector, development of transportation infrastructure, lower prices, tourism). Erasmus+ investing in youth mobility helps to create durable bonds.
- In the future EU cooperation with EaP countries should increase in the field of digital economy and cybersecurity, education, investments and support for SME-s. The focus should also be on reforms in energy sector and connections with EU market.
- They also want more political and security cooperation (boost security component of EaP), including fighting hybrid threats.
- It was found that it would be important to change the understanding inside EU that it is not enough only to do good things, it is also important to communicate about these achievements and positive effects to the public of EaP countries. At the same time it is also important to change the image of EaP countries inside EU – there has been a transformation from Post-Soviet countries to European ones.
Photo gallery of the Conference can be viewed HERE (photographer: Birgit Püve) and videos of the Conference are available HERE.