European Scrutiny Committee Contents


62 The EU Eastern Partnership

(a)

(30248)

16940/08

COM(08) 823

(b)

(30249)

16941/08

SEC(08) 2974


Commission Communication: Eastern Partnership



Commission Staff Working Document accompanying the Commission Communication Eastern Partnership

Legal base
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 30 March 2010
Previous Committee ReportHC 19-xviii (2008-09), chapter 16 (3 June 2009); HC 19-xiii (2008-09), chapter 1 (1 April 2009); HC 19-xi (2008-09), chapter 5 (18 March 2009); and HC 19-ii (2008-09), chapter 7 (17 December 2008). Also see (30615) 9029/09: HC 19-xviii (2008-09), chapter 17 (3 June 2009)
Discussed in Council11-12 December 2008 European Council
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionDebated in European Committee B on 27 April 2009; further information now provided

Background

62.1 The June 2008 European Council initially discussed the idea of an Eastern Partnership (EaP), based on a Polish/Swedish proposal. It envisaged "enhancing EU policy towards eastern European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)[262] partners in bilateral and multilateral formats", and agreed on:

"the need to further promote regional cooperation among the EU's eastern neighbours and between the EU and the region, as well as bilateral cooperation between the EU and each of these countries respectively, on the basis of differentiation and an individual approach, respecting the character of the ENP as a single and coherent policy framework."

62.2 It said that such cooperation "should bring added value and be complementary to the already existing and planned multilateral cooperation under and related to the ENP, in particular the Black Sea Synergy and the Northern Dimension", and invited the Commission to take the work forward and present to the Council in Spring 2009 "a proposal for modalities of the "Eastern Partnership", on the basis of relevant initiatives."[263]

62.3 The Extraordinary Council on 1 September, which met to discuss the crisis in Georgia, noted with concern the impact of the crisis on the whole of the region, and considered that it was "more necessary than ever to support regional cooperation and step up its relations with its eastern neighbours, in particular through its neighbourhood policy, the development of the "Black Sea Synergy" initiative and an "Eastern Partnership". The Council indicated that it now wished to adopt this partnership in March 2009 and, to this end, invited the Commission to submit its proposals sooner, in December 2008.[264]

The Commission Communication

62.4 The Communication presents proposals for an ambitious and specific Eastern dimension within the ENP. It advocates a "step-change in relations" with the six Eastern neighbours — Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan — "without prejudice to individual countries' aspirations for their future relationship with the EU." The Eastern Partnership (EaP) "should bring a lasting political message of EU solidarity, alongside additional, tangible support for their democratic and market-oriented reforms and the consolidation of their statehood and territorial integrity". This will, the Commission says, serve "the stability, security and prosperity of the EU, partners and indeed the entire continent", and "will be pursued in parallel with the EU's strategic partnership with Russia". The Commission sees the EaP as going further than the present ENP:

"The guiding principle should be to offer the maximum possible, taking into account political and economic realities and the state of reforms of the partner concerned, bringing visible benefits for the citizens of each country."

62.5 An essential component will be a commitment from the EU to accompany more intensively partners' individual reform efforts. The full political engagement of EU Member States will be essential. Active parliamentary contacts and exchanges will also play an important role.

62.6 The EaP will be based on mutual commitments to the rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights, respect for and protection of minorities, and the principles of the market economy and sustainable development. The extent to which these values are reflected in national practices and policy implementation will determine the "level of ambition of the EU's relationship with the Eastern Partners";[265] joint ownership is seen as essential, and both sides of the EaP are to "have their responsibilities." Only with strong political will on both sides will the EaP achieve its objective of political association and economic integration.

62.7 The main proposals (which are set out in more detail in our previous Reports)[266] are:

—  new Association Agreements (AA) between the EU and each partner country, to succeed the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreements due to expire in 2008 and 2009. These agreements would aim to help encourage these countries to adopt EU norms and standards, both in terms of democracy and governance as well as technical standards for trade, energy and other sectors. They should also advance cooperation on Common Foreign and Security Policy and European Security and Defence Policy;

—  a Comprehensive Institution Building programme (CIB) to help build partners' administrative capacity to meet commitments and conditions arising from the AAs;

—  to achieve a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement between each EaP country and the EU Member States, with a longer term vision of creating a neighbourhood economic community;

—  individual country mobility and security pacts: encompassing both labour mobility and cooperation on tackling illegal migration, border management aligned to EU standards, and enhanced efforts to fight organised crime and corruption;

—  talks on visa facilitation with partners: improved consular coverage; roadmaps to waiving visa fees from Schengen countries and increased EU support for national strategies to tackle organised crime, trafficking etc., with non-Schengen countries such as the UK invited to take parallel steps;

—  policies to promote energy security;

—  a new multilateral forum to allow EU member states to share information with the Eastern Partners to help these countries to modernise. This would include an annual Spring meeting of Foreign Ministers and a biennial meeting of Heads of State and Government; and

—  third countries (e.g. other Black Sea Synergy partners like Russia and Turkey) could be involved in various projects if all the partners agreed.

62.8 The multilateral track will provide a new framework to support each differentiated bilateral component, providing a "forum to share information and experience on partners' steps towards transition, reform and modernisation", facilitating the development of common positions and activities, and initiating "a structured approximation process, supported by the CIB".

62.9 There should be four Thematic Platforms:

  • democracy, good governance and stability;
  • economic integration and convergence with EU policies;
  • energy security; and
  • contacts between people.

62.10 A number of flagship initiatives are also suggested (e.g., an Integrated Border Management Programme, an SME Facility, promotion of regional electricity markets, disaster preparedness), to be funded through multi-donor support, International Financial Institutions and the private sector.

62.11 The Communication also discusses funding — "substantially increased financial resources are required to achieve the objectives set out in this proposal" — and monitoring and evaluation.

62.12 The Commission Staff Working Document examines potential subjects for the Thematic Platforms and Panels and the Flagship initiatives in greater detail.

62.13 The proposal was strongly supported by the then Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Caroline Flint). But, as the Commission itself pointed out, significant additional resources would be needed. With "significant pressures on the ENP Instrument due to reallocation of funding for the Georgia crisis and on-going support to the Palestinian Territories", the Commission estimated it would need €600 million extra in this budget to support the implementation of the EaP; €250 million had been found from the existing ENPI envelope (2010-2013), mainly through re-prioritisation of funds from the Regional East Programme; but an additional €350 million of new money would be required. Detailed Commission proposals were awaited: "further re-prioritisation in the framework of the budget mid-term review [would] need to be carefully balanced with the needs, expectations and current initiatives (such as the Union for the Mediterranean) for the Southern neighbours."

62.14 The history of the previous Committee's subsequent consideration of the Commission Communication is set out in its previous Reports. It was debated in European Committee B on 27 April B on 27 April 2009.[267]

62.15 During the debate, the then Minister undertook to provide further information, following the "launch" Summit in Prague, under the Czech Presidency, on 7 May 2009.

The then Minister's letter of 18 May 2009

62.16 The full details of the then Minister's letter is set out in the previous Committee's most recent Report. On the key issue of Financing, she recalled that the €600 million headline figure endorsed by the Spring European Council declaration on the Eastern Partnership was based on a Commission proposal to reprioritise €250 million from existing ENPI (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument) — Regional East funds and new additional commitments of €350 million from the budget margins of Heading 4 (external actions or 'EU as a Global Partner'). She went on to say that financing for the Eastern Partnership would be included in discussion of the Commission's Preliminary Draft Budget for 2010 and the annual EU budget negotiation process, which she did not expect to be completed before mid-November, with the Parliament expected to adopt the budget in early December; and that, for 2010, the Commission proposed additional commitment appropriations (CA) of €25 million, and payment appropriations (PA) of €5 million, for the Partnership.

62.17 She then went on to note that:

"The margins are normally reserved for crises and other unforeseen expenditure such as support for missions in Kosovo or responding to the crisis in Palestine. The Commission's plans to pre-allocate more than half the remaining budget margins up to 2013 may constrain our ability to support other foreign policy priorities with EC Budget funds and could ultimately compromise the EC Budget 2007-2013 Financial Framework. Any use of the margins to finance the Eastern Partnership will represent wholly additional expenditure of which the associated UK costs (approximately 14.7% of the total, which would amount to around £43m, subject to exchange rates and UK GNI contribution shares, if new expenditure reached €350m) will need to be found.

"We therefore want to ensure that adequate margins are maintained to finance future crises and UK priorities, and will continue to encourage further re-prioritisation within existing resources and to limit the proposed use of the margin. We also want the Commission to clarify for us why there should be such a disparity between the commitments and payments profiles in the proposal. The Foreign Secretary secured an important amendment in the Spring European Council conclusions to ensure that the commitment to €600m was set in the context of a budget-disciplined approach and the importance of maintaining adequate margins.

"My officials continue to collaborate in a joint strategy with HMT and DFID to influence decisions on financing the Eastern Partnership. Policy will be discussed in the COEST working group (an FCO lead), budget issues in the Council budget committee (an HMT lead), and individual partner country allocations in the ENPI Management Committee (a DFID lead).

62.18 She then went on to note that funding for the Eastern Partnership from 2011 was also linked to the mid-term review (MTR) of the ENPI, which was due to be completed in March 2010:[268]

"We view the MTR as an important exercise in assessing the impact and effectiveness of EC aid in the region and an opportunity for Member States to propose adjustments to existing priorities and programmes (including country allocations for the Eastern Partnership) accordingly. We want the MTR to consider funding needs and priorities for the Eastern Partnership countries from 2011-13. The UK plays an active role in the Brussels ENPI Management Committee, working closely with other Member States to make it an effective forum, and to hold the Commission to account. We will continue to encourage the Commission to allocate funding based on a sound resource allocation model to reflect partners' needs, priorities and absorption capacity."

62.19 The previous Committee observed that it could not imagine why the Commission should need such encouragement, since it could see no other sensible basis upon which to allocate the available resources, and said that it would be looking to both her and her colleagues in the Department for International Development, who had made much, in a variety of contexts, of their commitment to pursuing these matters in the relevant Councils and Council working groups, to demonstrate this when the time came.

62.20 The previous Committee also drew attention to a second common factor between the proposed Union of the Mediterranean and the EaP, in addition to embarking on major initiatives without any indication that appropriate funding was in place — namely, what, despite the evidence to the contrary, were often styled as "common values". It noted that the Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit said that the Eastern Partnership was "founded on mutual interests and commitments", including "to the principles of international law and to fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms … and good governance."[269] However, as the analysis in the Commission Communication on implementation of the ENP made clear, the reality on the ground was somewhat different: although there had undoubtedly been economic development in the ENP partner countries, there had been very little progress in these other areas — the absence at the Prague Summit of the President of Belarus, whose democratic failings had constrained its participation in the ENP hitherto, exemplifying the magnitude of the challenge that lay ahead.

62.21 In the meantime the previous Committee reported this further information to the House in view of the importance of issues concerned.

The then Minister for Europe's letter of 30 March 2010

62.22 In his letter, the then Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Chris Bryant) updates the Committee as follows:

EASTERN PARTNERSHIP BUDGET

"An overall allocation of €5.7 billion for the ENPI for the period 2011-2013 has been agreed. Financing for the Eastern Partnership for this period was approved in December 2009 by the EU budget committee. The March 2009 European Council agreed to find €600 million additional resourcing for ENPI to fund the Eastern Partnership. The UK was successful in reducing this to €350 million additional funding. This amount will be taken from the margins of the External Relations, Heading 4, EU budget and will require annual approval in Budget Committee Meetings. The remaining €250 million has been reallocated from existing ENPI funding for activity in the East.

"There are 3 main areas of funding engagement under the Eastern Partnership: (i) The Comprehensive Institution Building programme, which supports capacity building in individual partner countries to enable reforms to be carried out (€175 million); (ii) Regional programmes aimed at addressing economic and social disparities within partner countries (€75 million); and (iii) the multilateral dimension (€350 million).

ENPI MID-TERM REVIEW

"At the ENPI mid-term review in December 2009, Country and Regional Strategy Papers for 2007-13 were reviewed and new three-year National and Regional Indicative Programmes for the period 2011-13 agreed with five of the six Eastern Partnership countries. The 2007-10 National Indicative Programme for Belarus will be extended to one more year, to include 2011, to allow a review of the most recent developments in democratisation, respect for human rights and the rule of law to be carried out before a new one is developed. We will monitor the situation closely.

"We are satisfied that the new National and Regional Indicative Programmes and financial allocations are in line with our and Partners' priorities, and reflect progress against medium and long-term objectives and absorption capacity. We will continue to press for the aims and objectives which are outlined in strategy documents to be implemented. Our priority is to ensure spend continues to be used effectively and supports concrete political and economic reform.

MULTILATERAL DIMENSION

"The Eastern Partnership has both bilateral and multilateral dimensions. Multilateral working groups allow Partners and Member States to share best practice and guidance in areas of common interest. The groups are structured around four key areas of work, referred to as `platforms': Platform 1 Democracy, Good Governance, Stability; Platform 2 Economic Integration & Convergence with EU Policies; Platform 3 Energy Security and Environment and Climate Change; and Platform 4 Contacts Between People.

"Flagship initiatives in Integrated Border Management, Prevention of, preparedness for, and response to natural and man-made disasters, SME Development, Regional energy markets and energy efficiency and Environmental Guidance are now being developed and the initiatives on border management and response to disasters have already been launched.

ASSOCIATION AGREEMENTS

"Bilateral Association Agreements between the EU and each Partner country will require Partners to make progress in ensuring rule of law, respect for human rights and improved economic governance. The Eastern Partnership offers Association Agreements to five of the six partners (i.e. excluding Belarus). Negotiations on an Association Agreement with Moldova have begun and the EU is currently putting together negotiating mandates for Association Agreements with all three South Caucasus countries. Much progress has been made in negotiating the Association Agreement with Ukraine and I hope work on this will be finalised by the middle of next year.

"Belarus remains ineligible for an Association Agreement whilst respect for democratic values and the rule of law are not clearly demonstrated. The long term EU goal for Belarus is for it to become a democratic, stable and prosperous partner with whom we share a common agenda based on common values. We support the Commission approach to progressing work with Belarus with this aim, which consists of a two track approach of restriction of political contact and links with, and assistance to, other actors in civil society."

62.23 The then Minister concludes by saying that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office "will to continue to work closely with other government departments, and our representations in Brussels and the region to ensure the Eastern Partnership delivers real progress in our priority areas", and that he "will continue to update the Committee on progress at key stages."

Conclusion

62.24 So far as funding is concerned, there seems to have been little change in the situation described by the then Minister (Caroline Flint) in her previous letter. Her determination to encourage further re-prioritisation within existing resources, and to limit its use notwithstanding, the margin is still where the bulk of the €600 million is to be found.

62.25 So far as the process itself is concerned, Belarus continues to exclude herself, and on the key element — new Association Agreements — only Moldova is out of the traps. Dramatic change was never on the cards. But the challenge will be to ensure that, on its tenth anniversary, the EaP does not find itself being described by the then Minister for Europe in the same terms as did one of his or her predecessors on the tenth anniversary of its southern precursor: moribund, and in need of "a strategic refresh".

62.26 We note the offer of further updates. But the Committee has now done its job in ensuring the scrutiny of the establishment of the Eastern Partnership. Unless the Commission produces further documents on the EaP (which should, of course, be deposited for scrutiny), we are content to leave interested Members to follow its development via other channels and for the Minister to respond accordingly.





262   According to its website, the ENP was developed in 2004 "with the objective of avoiding the emergence of new dividing lines between the enlarged EU and our neighbours and instead strengthening the prosperity, stability and security of all concerned." See http://ec.europa.eu/world/enp/index_en.htm for full information and chapter 17of the then Committee's most recent Report for its consideration of the latest Commission report on the ENP. Back

263   Paragraphs 68-70; see http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/en/ec/101346.pdf for the full Council Conclusions. Back

264   See http://www.consilium.europa.eu/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressData/en/ec/102545.pdf for the full Council Conclusions. Back

265   For example: "The level of Belarus' participation in the EaP will depend on the overall development of EU-Belarus relations". Back

266   See headnote: HC 19-xi (2008-09), chapter 5 (18 March 2009) and HC 19-ii (2008-09), chapter 7 (17 December 2008). Back

267   See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmgeneral/euro/090427/90427s01.htm for the record of the debate, which took place on 27 April 2009.  Back

268   The ENPI is one of a suite of new financial regulations, or Instruments, that were adopted in 2007 with respect to the funding of the EU's external actions, including the Development and Cooperation Instrument, the Instrument for Stability, and the Instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights.  Back

269   The Joint Declaration of the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit is available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/er/107589.pdf.  Back


 
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