The Eastern Partnership – a bridge that connects neighbours

Photo: EU2015.LV
14 May 2015

Following the EU's largest single enlargement in terms of number of states and population with the accession of 10 new countries in 2004, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was developed in order to facilitate the steady development of Member States and their neighbouring regions, and to strengthen political and economic ties. This cooperation platform currently consists of 16 countries.

The ENP is not just a bilateral policy between the EU and each partner country, but is also complemented by regional and multilateral cooperation initiatives and formats, such as the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (with neighbours to the EU’s south in North Africa and the Middle East), the Black Sea Synergy (regional cooperation among the countries around the Black Sea) and the Eastern Partnership.

Win-win initiative?

The Eastern Partnership is a joint policy initiative between the EU, its 28 Member States and six Eastern European neighbours – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Heads of State and Government agreed on its launch at the Prague Summit in May 2009.

The EaP offers Eastern neighbours that wish to move closer to the EU and enhance political, economic and cultural links the opportunity to do so. It is underpinned by a mutual commitment to international law and core values – democracy, justice and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms (along with the market economy, sustainable development and good governance).

The EaP is one of the EU's most important foreign policy initiatives that is mutually beneficial to both individual states and the region as a whole. It does not pave the way for the countries’ accession to the EU, but is a voluntary initiative that provides greater opportunities for cooperation and development for those involved.

How does it work?

Gradual liberalisation of the visa regime, greater energy independence, trade facilitation, the implementation of joint projects and financial support for reforms are only some of the potential benefits for the EaP countries. For the EU, it means stability in neighbouring countries that are willing to cooperate, thus promoting overall regional development, security and stability and at the same time reducing social and economic disparities.

The EaP has two cooperation platforms:

  • Bilateral cooperation (EU and individual partner countries) – the strengthening of mutual political and economic ties through Association Agreements and the establishment of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA). Mutual agreements on the liberalisation of the visa regime also promote mobility.
  • Multilateral cooperation (28 EU Member States and six Eastern partners) – the 28+6 format meets at different formal, informal and thematic events (the Summit of Heads of State and Government takes place once every two years, foreign ministers meet once a year, as well as sectoral ministerial meetings, informal sectoral dialogues, sectoral expert meetings, etc.).

The way forward – slowly but surely

Departing from different starting positions and with differing ambitions, six countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – set off together on the path towards closer cooperation with the EU in 2009. From the outset, some of them displayed an ambition to join the EU in the future, whereas others were more cautious.

The progress made towards integration with the EU is charted every year by the European Integration Index for Eastern Partnership Countries. The most recent data cover the period from January 2013 to June 2014. During this period, Moldova has been the leading EaP country in terms of progress made towards closer integration with the EU,  followed by Georgia and Ukraine.


Over the years, all the EaP countries have shown different but positive results regarding integration with the EU (see graphic) through the strengthening of political, economic and social linkages, and legal and institutional approximation to EU standards.

Association and Free Trade Agreements with EaP countries:

Georgia – signed, provisional application started
Moldova – signed, provisional application started
Ukraine – signed, provisional application started (currently not applicable to DCFTA)

Visa regime with EaP countries:

Moldova – visa-free travel regime
Ukraine and Georgia – implementation of second phase of the visa liberalisation process
Azerbaijan and Armenia – visa facilitation

Riga Summit – strong signal of support for the Eastern Partnership and a united Europe

Once every two years the EU and EaP political leaders meet at the Eastern Partnership Summit. The 4th Summit which will take place in Riga at the end of May will be one of the main events of the Latvian Presidency.

As one of the dimensions of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the Eastern Partnership has also been highlighted in the Latvian Presidency work programme as a priority that requires special attention. Determined work on the review of the ENP and the assessment of current results has been carried out during the Latvian Presidency.

The Riga Summit will serve as a strong signal of the EU’s long-term strategic support for the Neighbourhood Policy. The Summit plans to emphasise the need for the EU to adopt an even more flexible and inclusive approach in cooperation with the partner countries. It will be based on an individual and differentiated approach that takes into consideration the ambitions and capabilities of each country.

More information

  • May 2015 marks six years since the establishment of the Eastern Partnership. The first Eastern Partnership Summit took place in Prague (2009), the second in Warsaw (2011) and the third in Vilnius (2013).
  • The main objectives of the Eastern Partnership are to:

- promote democracy and good governance;
- strengthen energy independence;
- promote sectoral reforms and environmental protection;
- promote people-to-people contact;
- support economic and social development;
- allocate additional funding to projects aimed at reducing social inequality and facilitating stability.

  • The European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) is the main financing tool for cooperation with the EaP countries for the 2014-2020 period. Prior to that, from 2007 to 2013, the source of funding was the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI). Just under €2.5 billion was made available for cooperation programmes with the Eastern partners in 2010-2013.


What is the European Neighbourhood Policy?

The Eastern Partnership – a Component of the European Neighbourhood Policy 

European Neighbourhood Policy 

Eastern Partnership (EEAS)

Presentation on the Eastern Partnership (EEAS)

European Integration Index 2014 

The programme of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union

- Funding