March 25, 2019

The Eastern Partnership of the EU: Interim Results, Status Quo and Future Trends

By Tereza Neuwirthova.

On December 13, 2018, the Austrian Residence in The Netherlands hosted a panel discussion titled “The Eastern Partnership of the EU: Interim Results, Status Quo and Future Trends”. The main aspects dealt with during the panel discussion were the “20 Deliverables for 2020”, with a focus on the implementation of the EU Eastern Partnership work plan and strategic communication about its tangible results for citizens. What to expect in the future and the challenges the Eastern Partnership faces were addressed in the discussion as well.

The discussion was introduced by H.E. Ms. Heidemaria Gürer, Austrian Ambassador to the Netherlands, who outlined the main goals of the debate, as well as explained the connection between the main aspect of the debate, the Eastern Partnership, and her country Austria. In the second half of the year 2018, Austria holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, which means a number of subject matters to engage with is on its agenda for this period, and among other matters is the Eastern Partnership of the EU.

The discussion was moderated by Ms. Luiza Bialasiewicz, Professor of European Governance and Co-Director from the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies.

The first guest to present his country’s agenda, as well as contribution and integration in the European Union, was H.E. Mr. Mikalai M. Barysevich, Ambassador of Belarus to the Netherlands, who mentioned the non-confrontational nature of the European Partnership. Moreover, support for the dialogue between the European Union and Eurasia, as well as the importance of internal factors for the stability of both the EU and the Eastern Partnership were voiced in his speech.

As next spoke H.E. Ms. Tatiana Pârvu, Ambassador of Moldova to the Netherlands, who introduced the main points on the agenda of the Eastern Partnership and stressed its flexibility and ability to accommodate multilateral relationships. Areas that need cooperation between the EU and Eastern Partnership are mainly from within the digital setting, including e-governance, e-learning, connectivity, sustainable transportation system, trade and tourism. Her Excellency the Ambassador, also mentioned security and cybersecurity as the key dimensions.

According to Ambassador Pârvu, marking the anniversary of the Eastern Partnership in 2019 should be visible, show tangible and deliverable outcomes as well as bring symbolic and substantial conclusions. The priorities on the bilateral agenda, as voiced in Ms. Ambassador’s speech are the return of the justice sector, good governing structure, economic development, strategic communication, as well as free and transparent elections. Meddling in internal processes and corruption cases were mentioned as the challenges which Moldova might face in the future.

 H.E. Mr. Vsevolod Chentsov, Ambassador of Ukraine to the Netherlands started his speech by stressing the shared priorities with Moldova, as well as by comparing the legal frameworks of Belarus and Ukraine, which are, according to the ambassador, almost identical.

The turbulent environment inside and outside of the European Union, as well as digital security, were voiced as common issues that need to be addressed both in the agenda of the EU and also the Eastern Partnership. These can be seen as one space, in the words of H.E. Vsevolod Chentsov.

Another point in Mr. Ambassador’s speech was the proximity of the countries of Eastern Partnership, which need to show that they are one market and thereby gain significant benefits.

Ms. Johanneke de Hoogh, Special Representative for Eastern Partnership from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the next speaker who focused on the approach towards the Eastern Partnership in the Netherlands. According to Ms. de Hoogh, the general public, as well as the Dutch politicians, need to be shown that the Eastern Partnership is beneficial for the European Union as a whole.

A key factor in the development and stability of the countries of Eastern Partnership is the contribution of their youth, which is largely dependent on the creative and people-to-people context of the partnership, which if executed properly will bring economic growth to the countries. Another point Ms. Johanneke de Hoogh mentioned in the speech was the trade figures, which show a positive result for the Eastern Partnership countries since the Dutch imports from the region have been steadily increasing since 2014. The 2020 deliverables that are, in the words of Ms. de Hoogh, essential to citizens are most importantly the freedom of speech, human rights, free trade, and the rule of law.

Mr. Thomas Buchsbaum, Austrian Special Envoy on Eastern Partnership from MFA, Vienna introduced the goal of the Eastern Partnership countries, which is to create a stable and prosperous neighbourhood for the European Union. Mr. Buchsbaum mentioned that the European Union member states have accepted the coherent action by the Eastern Partnership countries, which are very diverse but share a markedly European course. Another fact voiced in the speech was that the Eastern Partnership has started to deliver, which has been met with a high consensus in Brussels.

Nevertheless, the Eastern Partnership faces many challenges, which according to Mr. Buchsbaum include maintaining a pro-EU attitude, attainable through the experience of benefits such as security, prosperity, or inclusive society. Balancing the inclusivity and differentiation of the European Union is primarily value-based, with each country espousing its own merits. A key principle in keeping the European Union member states interested is according to Mr. Buchsbaum the communication strategy, which needs independent and pluralistic media that would explain the nature of Eastern Partnership.

The last contributor to the discussion was Ms. Antoaneta Dimitrova, Professor of Comparative Governance from Leiden University, who emphasised that the constructive ambiguity of the Eastern Partnership works well and thus renders the bilateral relationships promising. Ukraine’s gas independence is, in the words of Ms. Dimitrova, a vital economic result which strengthened the Eastern Partnership’s result-oriented EU approach.

Ms. Dimitrova also voiced in her speech various challenges for the Eastern Partnership, among others the focus of the prospect of EU enlargement that needs to shift its focus from future to the realistic goals of today. Other challenges are strategic communications, which are relatively weak outside of the capitals, as well as campaigns in the countries that lack accessibility.

After the contributions of the guest speakers, the moderator of the discussion Ms. Luiza Bialasiewicz  encouraged the audience to ask questions as well as voice their opinions. After a short but enriching questions-and-answers part, both the guest speakers and the audience were invited by H.E. Heidemaria Gürer for drinks and refreshments in the adjacent rooms of the Austrian Residence. The evening ended on a pleasant note, with all of the attendees chatting and sharing valuable ideas among themselves.

 

 

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