High Representative Josep Borrell chaired the video conference of the ministers of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) with the participation of EU Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi. The video conference brought together EU foreign ministers and their counterparts from the six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine) to work on the preparations for the video conference of EaP leaders scheduled for 18 June 2020.
"I am extremely glad that the video conference in this format was held during the Croatian presidency, as a preparation for the video conference of the heads of state and government, which will take place on June 18 - the summit was one of the goals of our presidency of the EU Council".
Gordan Grlić Radman, minister of Foreign and European affairs of Croatia
The ministerial video conference took place one year after the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership, providing an opportunity to reflect on past achievements and future challenges and following publication of the Joint Communication on the future of the Eastern Partnership in March 2020.
The Eastern Partnership is a success story. We want this success story to continue for the benefit of all our citizens. And even after 11 years of a successful policy, I believe there is still a lot more we can achieve together.
Josep Borrell, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
Ministers confirmed the strategic importance of the relationship between the EU and the Eastern Partnership, and their strong commitment to continue developing it. They also expressed mutual solidarity and support to handle the health and socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They then had a first exchange of views on the EaP long-term agenda in order to prepare the ground for the development of concrete and operational post-2020 deliverables, building on the Joint Communication on the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020 and the related Council Conclusions.
Ministers agreed to keep working on future deliverables in the coming months, in order for these to be presented and endorsed at the physical EaP Summit due to take place in 2021.
The debate then focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.Ministers recalled that the EU response in the Eastern Partnership region was part of a global operation involving cooperation through multilateral efforts.
The EU put forward approximately € 1 billion as support to the six EaP partner countries within the Team Europe package with the objective of providing immediate relief in the fight against the virus, but also medium-term measures to address the economic and social consequences of the pandemic.
Finally ministers also touched on the ‘infodemic’ phenomenon linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, that had led to fake news, disinformation and misinformation being spread on a daily basis and impacting on the lives of citizens and agreed on the need to promote access to fact-based information and raise awareness about the harm of disinformation.
The EaP ministerial video conference took place two and a half years after the previous EaP Summit in Brussels (November 2017). On that occasion partners reaffirmed their commitments across the four key cooperation areas (economic development and market opportunities; strengthening institutions and good governance; connectivity, energy efficiency, environment and climate change; mobility and people-to-people contacts) and agreed on the 20 Deliverables for the 2020 policy agenda.
More recently, the EU adopted the joint communication on the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020 on 18 March 2020, and the Council adopted Conclusions on the future of the Eastern Partnership on 11 May 2020.
The joint communication and the Council conclusions define a set of new long-term policy objectives beyond 2020, as requested by the European Council in June 2019. In particular they proposed strengthening resilience as an overarching policy framework and set out five long term policy objectives beyond 2020:
Economy and connectivity
Accountable institutions, rule of law
The green transformation
The digital transformation
Fair and inclusive societies