Eastern Partnership Summit : Joint Declaration


Azerbaijan – EU signs visa facilitation agreement!!

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The Heads of State or Government and the representatives of the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the representatives of the European Union and the Heads of State or Government and representatives of its Member States have met in Vilnius on 28-29 November 2013. The President of the European Parliament and representatives of the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) the Conference of Regional and Local Authorities of the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) and the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly were also present at the Summit.
The Prague Summit in May 2009 launched a strategic and ambitious Eastern Partnership, as a specific dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy, to further support the sustainable reform processes of all Eastern European countries, States participating in the Eastern Partnership, with a view to accelerating the political association and economic integration of interested partners with the European Union (EU). The agenda agreed in Prague and Warsaw contains the guiding principles of the Eastern Partnership. The participants of the Vilnius Summit re-confirm their commitment to implement them fully.
The participants of the Vilnius Summit reviewed the considerable progress made in the Partnership since the September 2011 Warsaw Summit bringing Eastern European partners closer to the EU and agreed on an ambitious agenda for the way ahead. In this context, they stressed the crucial necessity of implementing agreed commitments, in particular on political, economic and social reforms.

The Summit participants reaffirm the importance they attach to the Eastern Partnership founded on mutual interests and commitments as well as on shared ownership, responsibility, differentiation and mutual accountability. The Partnership is based on commitments 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, as well as to market economy, sustainable development and good governance. All countries participating in the Eastern Partnership are committed to these values and principles of international law through the relevant international instruments and any EU Member State is also committed to them through the Treaty of the European Union.
While recognising and welcoming the progress that has been made, they also recall that much remains to be done to tackle the persisting challenges posed to democracy, the respect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. In this regard, Summit participants underline that progress on respect for those common values will be essential notably through strengthening the efficiency and independence of the judiciary; effectively tackling corruption; and implementing public administration reform.

The Summit participants welcome the steps taken since the Warsaw Summit to strengthen the Eastern Partnership with the objective of building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity, stability and increased interactions and exchanges. Emphasizing the importance of developing strong ties between the EU and the Eastern European countries, the Summit participants agree that achieving closer cooperation is essential to ensure stability and prosperity on the European continent. The resolution of conflicts, building trust and good neighbourly relations are essential to economic and social development and cooperation in the region.

The participants of the Vilnius Summit warmly welcome the significant step forward achieved in establishing ambitious, new Association Agreements, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas (DCFTAs) between the EU and some partner countries. Today, following the recent finalisation of the respective negotiations, the EU-Republic of Moldova and EU-Georgia Association Agreements including DCFTAs have been initialled. The participants of the Vilnius Summit take note of the decision by the Ukrainian Government to suspend temporarily the process of preparations for signature of the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between the EU and Ukraine. They also take note of the unprecedented public support for Ukraine’s political association and economic integration with the EU. The EU and Ukraine reiterate their commitment to the signing of this Agreement on the basis of determined action and tangible progress in the three areas emphasised at the 2013 EU-Ukraine Summit. To this end, important progress has already been achieved. These Association Agreements, including DCFTAs, are designed to support far reaching political and socio-economic reforms and facilitate comprehensive approximation towards the EU, its rules and standards. The participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome the progress made in the negotiations on an Association Agreement between the EU and the Republic of Azerbaijan and, building on existing bilateral contractual relations, call for progress to continue. The EU stands ready to launch negotiations on a DCFTA, as part of an Association Agreement, following Azerbaijan’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The EU and Armenia have today reconfirmed their commitment to further develop and strengthen their cooperation in all areas of mutual interest within the Eastern Partnership framework, stressing the importance of reviewing and updating the existing basis of their relations. In the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership, the Summit participants reaffirm the sovereign right of each partner freely to choose the level of ambition and the goals to which it aspires in its relations with the European Union.

Enhancing mobility in a secure and well-managed environment remains a core objective of the Eastern Partnership. The participants of the Vilnius Summit warmly welcome the progress made by some partners towards Visa Liberalisation through the implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plans. In this context they also welcome the conclusion and implementation of Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements.

The participants of the Vilnius Summit reaffirm their acknowledgement of the European aspirations and the European choice of some partners and their commitment to build deep and sustainable democracy. In this context, they take note of the commitment of those partners to pursue these objectives. The participants reaffirm the particular role for the Partnership to support those who seek an ever closer relationship with the EU. The Association Agreements, including DCFTAs, are a substantial step in this direction. Respect for the common values and implementation of Association Agreements will contribute to the future progressive developments in our relationship.

The participants of the Vilnius Summit set the following goals to be attained by the Partnership by 2015:

– Further deepening relations and cooperation between the EU and partners;

· Making further steps in strengthening democracy, guaranteeing respect of human rights and rule of law including through the pursuit of reform of the judiciary and strengthening law enforcement;

· Securing where applicable signature by Autumn 2014 and provisional application of the Association Agreements/DCFTAs thereby launching the implementation phase and ensure that the Agreements’ ratification processes are well advanced;

· Establishing where applicable Association Agendas as soon as possible in 2014 as the means of preparing for and implementing the Association Agreements/DCFTAs and to serve as the key monitoring tool;

· Continuing to provide EU assistance to support partners’ reform agendas including taking into account the provisional application and implementation of the Association Agreements including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas;

· Accession by the Eastern European partners concerned to the regional Convention on pan-Euro-Mediterranean preferential rules of origin and making progress towards their accession to the Common Transit Convention as further steps in the process of economic integration;

· Advancing through gradual steps towards visa free regimes, in due course on a case by case basis, provided that conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are in place;

· Strengthening the business dimension of the Eastern Partnership including through improving the business environment in partner countries to the benefit of local, regional and European SMEs and businesses;

· Gradually developing a Common Knowledge and Innovation Space to pull together several existing strands of cooperation in research and innovation;
· Further strengthening the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership;

· Seeking further regulatory approximation in all transport areas and implementing transport infrastructure projects, along the Eastern Partnership transport network through existing EU programmes and instruments, seeking closer involvement of European and International Financial Institutions and prioritizing projects that improve connections with the TEN-T core network;

· Promoting and strengthening strategic multilateral projects, through creating a conducive, transparent, regulatory, and financial environment for the implementation of projects of Common Interest and Projects of Energy Community Interests for the countries concerned.

· Further strengthening of public institutional capacity with support from the EU;

· Promoting and strengthening visible and effective multilateral Flagship Initiatives including where appropriate combining policy dialogue and support for infrastructure;

· Further strengthening people to people contacts – including through the opening of the new “Erasmus +”, ”Creative Europe” and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie strand within Horizon 2020 to the participants from the Eastern Partnership countries;

· Implementing a Visibility Strategy for the Eastern Partnership.

Summit participants stress that effective future implementation of Association Agreements and, where relevant, DCFTAs, accompanied by reforms will bring about the comprehensive approximation with EU legislation and standards leading to the gradual economic integration of partners in the EU internal market and therefore to the creation of an economic area. They undertake to review at the next Summit the possible further steps that could be taken to advance economic integration with a view to creating an economic area in light of implementation of the relevant parts of this Declaration and the Association Agreements / DCFTAs. To this end, the European Commission is invited, to conduct a feasibility study in due time. Summit participants agree that such an ambitious long-term vision for economic integration between partners and the EU is desirable – contributing also to the longer-term goal of a wider common area of economic prosperity based on WTO rules and sovereign choices throughout Europe and beyond.

The growing relationship between the EU and its Eastern European partners in particular in the field of economic integration can make a significant contribution to strengthening Europe’s international competitiveness and to creating sustainable, inclusive, smart growth and jobs thereby enhancing stability.

Greater differentiation and mutual accountability will allow individual partners better to meet their aspirations and needs. The pace of reforms will continue to determine the intensity of cooperation and those partners most engaged in reforms will benefit most from their relationship with the EU, in line with the incentive based approach (“more-for-more”) of the renewed European Neighbourhood Policy. Reinforced and sustainable reform efforts serve a common interest to help the Eastern European countries progress towards deep and sustainable democracies where good governance and the rule of law prevail with economies developing on market-based principles to underpin equitable and sustainable development. Summit participants underline that this ambitious agenda requires the engagement of the broader society and they therefore welcome the increased involvement of parliaments, civil society, local and regional authorities, business community and other relevant stakeholders in the Eastern Partnership agenda.

Summit participants agree the above general political guidelines for the Partnership in 2014-

15. This declaration, together with the new Association Agendas and other existing and future documents guiding bilateral relations and Work Programmes of the multilateral Platforms, will constitute a clear plan of action for the Eastern Partnership in 2014-15.

Achievements in 2011 – 2013 and agenda for 2014 – 2015

Progress made from the Warsaw to the Vilnius Summit


1. The Vilnius Summit is a defining moment in the EU’s relationship with Eastern European partners. The participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome the advances in the Eastern Partnership achieved since the Warsaw Summit in accelerating political association and economic integration, facilitating mobility in a well-managed and secure environment, strengthening the multilateral dimension and supporting sector cooperation. They acknowledge the role played by the Eastern Partnership Roadmap in guiding and monitoring the implementation of the objectives of the Eastern Partnership.

2. The Summit participants look forward to the conclusion as soon as possible in 2014 of Association Agendas with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova as instruments to prepare and facilitate the implementation of the Association Agreements and help create a comprehensive and practical framework through which political association and economic integration with the EU can be monitored and developed. They welcome the joint work carried out in implementing the Association Agenda with Ukraine.

3. The participants of the Vilnius Summit duly recognize the substantial efforts undertaken by partners in order to initiate and implement long term comprehensive modernisation reforms and their commitment to pursue them further. They express satisfaction about EU increased support to partner reforms through enhanced policy dialogues and cooperation, both at bilateral and multi-country level.

4. Summit participants welcome the significant financial commitment of €2.5bn of the EU during the 2010-13 period aimed at furthering democratic development and institution building, smart, sustainable and inclusive growth as well as economic development. Expressing support for the implementation of the incentive based approach, they note that significant additional resources were made available in 2012-13 to countries that made most progress in building deep and sustainable democracy. They acknowledge the major efforts carried out in key reform areas identified under the Comprehensive Institution Building (CIB) initiative and the important support being provided by the EU to this end. The participants of the Vilnius Summit express their satisfaction that the EIB stepped up its lending activity in the partner countries from € 170 million in 2008 to € 934 million last year and that the EBRD is enriching its continued support to private sector development and infrastructure renovation by policy dialogue and advice. They take positive note of the increased efforts of EU Member States in supporting the aims of the Eastern Partnership, including through bilateral development cooperation.

5. Mobility of citizens in a well-managed and secure environment is an important element of the Eastern Partnership. Visa liberalisation remains a shared objective of individual partner countries and the EU alike for the benefit of the population at large. The preparedness for a visa-free regime is to be assessed on a case-by-case basis provided that conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are in place. The first step of successfully implementing visa facilitation and readmission agreements has been achieved for several Eastern European partner countries. The participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome the conclusion of the Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with the Republic of Armenia and look forward to their effective implementation. They look forward to the next steps towards increased mobility between the EU and Armenia. They welcome the signature today of the Visa Facilitation Agreement with the Republic of Azerbaijan and look forward to the imminent signature of the Readmission Agreement. They look forward to the next steps towards increased mobility between the EU and Azerbaijan. The participants of the Vilnius Summit also look ahead to the launch of negotiations of Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with Belarus. They also encourage use of the flexibilities offered by the Visa Code. In this context, the participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome the achievements by the Republic of Moldova in fulfilling the benchmarks set out in its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan and the presentation of the European Commission’s latest progress report in this regard. They take note of the European Commission’s legislative proposal to amend EC Regulation 539/2001. They also welcome the substantial progress achieved by Ukraine towards the completion of the first phase of its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan and the very good progress made by Georgia in the process of implementing the first phase of its Visa Liberalisation Action Plan. They look forward to further progress in the Visa Liberalisation Dialogues with these countries. These Plans should serve as models for other partner countries who wish to engage in the visa liberalisation dialogues with the EU, bearing in mind the specificity and progress of each country.

6. The participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome the effective implementation of Mobility Partnerships in line with the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility with the Republic of Moldova, Georgia and the Republic of Armenia. They note that the evaluation of the EU – Republic of Moldova Mobility Partnership and the development of the Extended Migration Profile with this country have demonstrated the importance of evidence based policies in the field of migration, which could also guide cooperation in the framework of Mobility Partnerships between the EU and other Eastern Partnership countries. They also welcome the progress made with a view to concluding the Mobility Partnership with the Republic of Azerbaijan and look forward to its imminent signature and envisage establishing similar frameworks with other Eastern European partners. Recognising the importance of the Mobility Partnerships as the key bilateral framework in strengthening cooperation in the area of migration and mobility, the Summit participants call for even greater engagement of participating EU Member States and Eastern European partners in their effective implementation.

7. The participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome enhanced cooperation and the progress achieved in the area of freedom, security and justice as well as the outcome of the first Eastern Partnership Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial meeting held in Luxembourg on 7-8 October 2013. Effective implementation of reforms in this area will contribute to further development of cooperation between the EU and its partners. In the field of justice, large cooperation programmes have been launched and implemented in several countries contributing to the improvement of democratic governance.

8. The Vilnius Summit participants welcome the important increase of activities under the Eastern Partnership multilateral dimension including to complement bilateral dialogue and cooperation. They stress the importance of the engagement of Eastern Partnership actors in all the relevant activities of multilateral dimension of the Partnership. The Partnership’s multilateral dimension has provided a valuable forum for sharing information on and experience of partner countries’ steps towards transition, reform and modernisation. It has allowed partners to benefit from an additional channel to support reform efforts and facilitate approximation as appropriate. The Vilnius Summit participants welcome enhanced multilateral cooperation in areas such as: trade and economic cooperation, statistics, customs, tax, border management, energy, transport, environment and climate change, education, youth and training, culture, business environment including SME policies, disaster risk reduction, research and innovation, information society and media, agriculture and rural development, migration and asylum, public administration reforms, fight against corruption. In this regard, the participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome progress achieved in the implementation of cooperation initiatives, including the Flagship initiatives, which bring tangible benefits to citizens in partner countries.

9. Summit participants welcome the launching of informal Eastern Partnership dialogues and the three rounds successfully held to date (Chisinau, July 2012; Tbilisi, February 2013 and Yerevan, September 2013). This format has promoted regular, informal exchanges between Foreign Ministers both on the Eastern Partnership agenda and foreign policy issues of common concern and has advanced Eastern Partnership cooperation in key sectors through the engagement of the Ministers concerned from partner countries. They wish to deepen where appropriate political association and increase political and security policy convergence and effectiveness in the field of foreign policy.

10. The Summit participants highlight the importance of dialogue and cooperation in the field of foreign and security policy as a key component of enhancing political association between the EU and the interested partners. They welcome the launch of a CSDP (Common Security and Defence Policy) Panel to facilitate dialogue on developments concerning CSDP, including on CSDP crisis management operations and exercises. Moreover, under the Partnership bilateral dimension, the conclusion and implementation of CSDP Framework Participation Agreements provide partner countries with the legal basis and practical means to engage in EU-led crisis management operations. They welcome the contribution by Ukraine to a number of EU operations. The Summit participants welcome the signing and entry into force of the Framework Participation Agreement with the Republic of Moldova and its interest to participate in EU operations, welcome the signature today of the Framework Participation Agreement with Georgia and note that the launching of negotiations with other partner countries is under consideration. In this context the Summit Participants also stress the importance of concluding Framework Agreements on the Exchange of Classified Information with interested partners contributing to the CSDP Missions.

11. Concerning transport cooperation, the Vilnius Summit participants welcome achievements that seek to improve infrastructure connections between the EU and the Eastern European region. They recall the endorsement by the Eastern Partnership Transport Ministerial meeting held in Luxembourg on 9 October 2013 of the indicative map of the Eastern Partnership regional transport network that indicates connections with the trans-European Transport Network and a related list of priority projects as first concrete steps in improving transport and logistics connections. The Vilnius Summit participants welcome the initialling of a Common Aviation Area Agreement with Ukraine and the successful conclusion and implementation of such agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova that have improved connections and choice for travellers. They welcome the launching of negotiations of a Common Aviation Area Agreement with Azerbaijan. They also take note of the readiness of Armenia to start negotiations on a Common Aviation Area Agreement. All these Agreements make a concrete contribution to the Eastern Partnership’s goal of bringing the EU and its partners closer together.

12. The participants concerned welcome joint work towards increasing mutual energy security including through network developments and gradual integration with the EU’s internal energy market and promotion of cross border trade. They will promote an inclusive and open policy on energy security, transportation and supply. They acknowledge the key developments towards the opening of the Southern Gas Corridor, including the planned modernisation of the South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the development of other gas transport infrastructures directly linking the Caspian Region with the EU. They note Azerbaijan’s strategic role in diversifying Europe’s energy supplies. They look forward to continued EU support for the modernization of the Ukrainian Gas Transmission System as a key part of the European grid network, to continued efforts by Ukraine to undertake the further necessary reforms in the gas sector and to the finalization of the dialogue with the International Financial Institutions in order to disburse the first loan for the emergency gas transit project. They note the strong energy provisions of the DCFTAs, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova’s work to comply with their obligations under the Energy Community, the on-going work with Ukraine on ensuring bi-directional gas flows, the development of the “Adriatic Gas Corridor” connecting Croatia, Hungary and Ukraine, the steps towards the preparation of the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania interconnector (AGRI LNG) project, the progress in determining priority gas and electricity interconnection projects between the Republic of Moldova and the EU. They also note Georgia’s application to become a member of the Energy Community. They take note of Armenia’s active observership in the Energy Community. Discussions have demonstrated that there are real opportunities for Ukraine to position itself as an Eastern European gas hub after an effective long-term strategy for the use of its gas transmission and storage assets in line with Ukraine’s Energy Community obligations, involving all relevant stakeholders, is developed. The Summit participants take note of the important contribution of Belarus to Europe’s energy security by providing significant energy transit and they support further dialogue based on the 2009 Declaration on Cooperation of the European Commission and the Government of the Republic of Belarus in the field of energy. Dialogue has focused on energy security, regulatory issues, networks, energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Vilnius Summit participants welcome the full participation of Ukraine, including in the peer review process and the active involvement of Armenia and Belarus in the EU’s nuclear stress tests. They welcome the increased cooperation in the field of nuclear safety and encourage transparency, accessibility of information and full compliance with international nuclear safety and environmental agreements.

13. Summit participants stress the importance of education, youth and culture area. They welcome the increase of academic exchanges and cooperation between the EU and Eastern European partners through Tempus and Erasmus Mundus since 2011 which has allowed more partnerships and scholarships to be funded for the benefit of an increasing number of participants. In addition, the Eastern Partnership Youth Window has substantially increased the number of young people and youth workers involved in joint projects. The Summit participants welcome the objectives outlined in the Declaration agreed at the Eastern Partnership Ministerial Conference on Culture held in Tbilisi on 27-28 June 2013 as well as the results of the Informal Eastern Partnership dialogue on education which took place in Yerevan on 13 September 2013. They also welcome the launch of the Eastern Partnership Youth Forum which took place in Kaunas on 22-25 October 2013.

14. Summit participants underline the contribution agriculture and rural development makes to partners’ sustainable and inclusive development and the importance of providing to their populations safe, diversified and high quality food. They look forward to enhanced sector cooperation under the European Neighbourhood Programme for Agriculture & Rural Development initiative (ENPARD). Summit participants also welcome the establishment of the multilateral Panel on Agriculture and Rural Development reflecting the importance of farming and rural communities in the partner countries. They also welcome large Regional Development Programmes which assist partner countries in addressing economic, social and regional imbalances. Summit participants stressed the importance of protecting Geographical Indications for promoting fair trade relations in agricultural products and foodstuffs between the EU and partners, welcoming the conclusion of such Agreements with the Republic of Moldova and Georgia and the fact that related provisions have been included in the initialled DCFTA with Ukraine.

15. Summit participants welcome the expansion of cooperation in research and innovation. Participation by researchers, research organisations and other stakeholders, including industry in the 7th Framework Programme has continued to increase, notably in theme-oriented research activities. The Summit participants further welcome the establishment of a dedicated Eastern Partnership Panel on Research and Innovation.

16. The Summit participants stress the importance of environment as one of priority areas for cooperation that is mutually beneficial for the EU and the partner countries both from an environmental and economic point of view. They welcome the progress achieved in introducing the principles of green economy, in fostering environmental governance and implementing multilateral environmental agreements. They recognise the role of various supporting programmes for boosting regional cooperation on environment and climate change also in the context of Rio+20 follow-up process, including formulation of sustainable development goals.

17. With respect to disaster risk reduction, the Summit participants welcome work carried out to establish the Electronic Regional Risk Atlas and stress the importance of bringing partner countries closer to the EU mechanisms for Emergency Response and strengthening capacity on disaster resilience, disaster prevention and management. They also welcome the signature of the Administrative Arrangement on the cooperation in the field of civil protection signed between the European Commission and the Republic of Moldova.

18. In the field of information society and media, the participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome work carried out with the view to approximate relevant partner countries’ legislation and regulatory framework to the EU body of laws and regulations on electronic communication. Additionally, participants welcome work done in view to promote further electronic infrastructures for education and research in partner countries.

19. The participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome Eastern European partners increasing participation in EU programmes and cooperation with EU Agencies. Over the past two years, several partners also participated in specific components or projects under a number of EU programmes. The Republic of Moldova was associated to the EU 7th framework programme for research and technological development. They look forward to the imminent entry into force of the Protocol enabling Armenia’s participation in new EU programmes. They look forward to the signature of the Protocols enabling Azerbaijan’s and Georgia’s participation in EU programmes. Bilateral cooperation arrangements with EU Agencies were signed including Armenia and the Republic of Moldova with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Georgia and the Republic of Moldova with the European Police College (CEPOL), Republic of Moldova with the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan with Frontex.

20. The participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome the regular macroeconomic dialogues, including exchange of macroeconomic information and analyses with partners with a view to enhance macroeconomic governance and contribute to economic stabilisation. Since September 2011, the EU has implemented macro-financial assistance programmes with the Republic of Moldova and Armenia in response to their economic crises. The legislative decision on macro-financial assistance to Georgia has been approved and the Memorandum of Understanding of the macro-financial assistance to Ukraine as well as the Loan Agreement have been signed.

21. The Summit’s participants welcome the work and projects carried out in order to assess, monitor and implement SME policies in partner countries in line with the principles of the Small Business Act for Europe (SBA).

22. The participants of the Vilnius Summit noted the enhanced bilateral sectoral dialogues between the EU and Belarus on issues such as economic and financial cooperation, the environment and education. They encourage the further development of these sectoral dialogues.

23. The participants of the Vilnius Summit recall the valuable role of civil society within the Eastern Partnership. They recognize that civil society constitutes an integral element in a well-functioning democratic system. They underline the contribution of civil society in all the relevant activities under the Partnership including through the Civil Society Forum and its National Platforms. They welcome the support extended to civil society through the Neighbourhood Civil Society Facility. They welcome the outcome of the 5th meeting of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum on October 4-5, 2013, in Chisinau and the establishment of the permanent secretariat of the Civil Society Forum. They welcome that the 6th meeting of the Civil Society Forum will take place in Georgia. The participation of the Civil Society Forum representatives in the meetings of the multilateral Platforms should be further encouraged.

24. The participants of the Vilnius Summit also welcome the strengthened cooperation with other stakeholders including Euronest, CORLEAP and the Eastern Partnership Business Forum.

25. The participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome the efforts undertaken to enhance the Eastern Partnership visibility stressing the need to intensify implementation of the visibility strategy including with the involvement of civil society. They call for further awareness raising efforts regarding the Eastern Partnership in Eastern European Partners. They welcome the adoption of the communication and information strategy for 2014-2017 by the Government of Georgia. They welcome the increase in the number of EU information centres established in partner countries since the Warsaw Summit.

26. The Summit participants take note of the cooperation with International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and third countries interested in donor coordination and more generally in the development of the Eastern Partnership, including through the informal Information and Coordination Group, without prejudice to the principles of cooperation with third states, as defined in the Prague declaration.

The next phase of the Eastern Partnership


27. The participants of the Vilnius Summit agree on a forward looking agenda for the Eastern Partnership over the next two years which will consolidate and develop the process of political association and economic integration. The Partnership will witness, for the EU and partners concerned, a challenging qualitative shift from negotiation of agreements to their effective implementation. Summit participants recognise that the implementation of these agreements with their far-reaching objectives of comprehensive political, economic and societal modernization will require significant political will to drive through the necessary reforms in order to bring about the benefits for the citizens of partner countries. The EU remains committed to supporting partners throughout this process, assessing progress through the annual progress reports presented by the Commission and the High Representative. This will also require the launching of comprehensive information and communication campaigns by partner country authorities in order to engage with the population at large, with appropriate support from the EU. The Summit participants stress the importance of pursuing differentiation in bilateral relations in combination with the further enhancement of multilateral cooperation.

28. Recalling the statements on the earliest peaceful settlement of conflicts reflected in the Prague and Warsaw Declarations, the Vilnius Summit participants welcome the EU’s intention to strengthen its contribution to encourage progress in further promoting stability and multilateral confidence building. They welcome the EU’s strengthened role in conflict resolution and confidence building efforts in the framework or in support of existing agreed formats and processes, including through field presence when appropriate. They emphasise the need for the earliest peaceful settlement of the conflicts on the basis of the principles and norms of international law. They welcome the recent meeting in Vienna between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan with the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group and the Presidents’ agreement to advance the negotiations toward a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The participants support the activities of the EUSR for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia. They stress the need of the full implementation of the 12 August 2008 ceasefire agreement and the importance of the presence of the EUMM in Georgia. Participants emphasize the need of the full implementation of the mandate of the EUMM and reiterate their support for the Geneva International Discussions. The participants stress the importance of progress in resolving the Transnistrian conflict and look forward to the advancement of the negotiations in the 5+2 format on all three baskets of the agreed agenda, in particular institutional, political and security issues. They also commend the valued continuous contribution of the EUBAM on the border between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine.

29. The Summit participants note that the EU remains engaged in a European Dialogue on Modernisation with Belarusian society and that exchanges are ongoing between the EU and the Belarusian government with a view to determining the best future form of cooperation on modernisation issues.

Association Agreements and DCFTAs


30. Summit participants stress the importance of pursuing as expeditiously as possible the steps leading to the signature, provisional application and ratification of the Association Agreements, including DCFTAs, between the EU and the partner countries concerned. They underline that the implementation of the Association Agreements/DCFTAs will signify a fundamental shift towards deeper political association and economic integration of partners with the EU. In this context, the successful implementation of the Agreements and the gradual economic integration of partner countries’ economies in the EU internal market will strengthen the ability of partner countries to compete effectively in international markets, will bring direct benefits for consumers, as well as domestic and foreign investors and entrepreneurs, due to the modernization of public services and the approximation to EU norms and standards on competition policy, intellectual property, food safety, consumer protection, customs, public procurement, services and road safety among others. They underline that real progress on DCFTAs can only be achieved with economies that welcome competition, have well-functioning institutions and a legal framework that guarantees a safe business-and investment climate.

31. In 2014-15, for the partner countries concerned, cooperation and dialogue will be structured around the implementation of Association Agreement/DCFTA provisions, focused in particular on approximation to EU norms and standards. It is expected that the EU and Eastern European partners together will engage and carry out a number of preparatory actions, including strengthening of partner countries’ institutions, to pave the way for meeting the challenge of complying with schedules of specific measures foreseen in the annexes of the Association Agreements/DCFTAs.

Sector cooperation


32. The Eastern Partnership mobility agenda will be an important priority for the 2014-15 period. The Summit participants look forward to progress towards visa free regimes for individual partner countries in due course on a case by case basis and provided that conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are in place. In the meantime, they encourage the full implementation of the provisions of the Visa Facilitation Agreements and encourage Member States to use the flexibilities offered by the Visa Code.

33. The participants of the Vilnius Summit express their commitment to strengthening further the bilateral and multilateral cooperation and coordination with interested Eastern European partners in areas related to freedom, security and justice. In line with the EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility, dialogue and cooperation will include the promotion of secure and well managed migration and mobility, the prevention of and the fight against illegal migration and trafficking in human beings, the strengthening of international protection and the enhancement of the development impact of migration. The participants of Vilnius Summit express the importance of enhancing collaboration in the area of prevention and fight against organised and transnational crime, drugs, corruption and cybercrime as well as law enforcement cooperation. Convening further meetings at ministerial level will help to ensure appropriate political guidance and coordination. The Eastern Partnership Panel on Migration and Asylum will continue contributing to enhancing dialogue and cooperation on the broader mobility agenda. The Panel on Fight against Corruption will contribute to developing and implementing tools and measures aimed at preventing and fighting corruption. The participants of the Vilnius Summit encourage further intensification of the cooperation between the Eastern European Partners and the EU agencies relevant for the justice and home affairs area.

34. In the transport sector, the Summit participants look forward to the implementation of concrete actions that make transport between the EU and partner countries safer, more efficient and sustainable and have a positive impact on trade flows. The participants of the Vilnius Summit stress the importance of a swift signature and entry into force of the Common Aviation Area Agreement with Ukraine, look forward to the next steps in the aviation negotiations with Azerbaijan and look forward to the start of similar negotiations with Armenia. The Summit participants look forward to the future inclusion of inland waterways into the Eastern Partnership regional transport network. They stress the importance of timely ratification of the Common Aviation Area Agreements between the EU and Georgia and Republic of Moldova. Next steps in transport cooperation will focus on regulatory convergence in all transport modes and implementation of priority projects with the help of European and International Financial Institutions.
35. The participants of the Vilnius Summit, recalling their energy interdependence and common interest to strengthen mutual energy security including within the Eastern Partnership, confirm their intention to deepen further bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Market integration will be further promoted through the completion of the EU’s internal market, including interconnections, and, where appropriate, the implementation of the DCFTAs and the Energy Community Treaty as well as other relevant legal instruments such as Energy Charter Treaty. Participants agree to cooperate on the further development of energy infrastructure of joint interest including through enhanced EU support, within existing instruments, for the construction and upgrading of interconnections between partners and the EU energy market. Participants note the key importance to consistently increase efforts on energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources also through capacity building in the field of green energy technology. They support the closest possible involvement in the Covenant of Mayors and welcome the decision to expand the Eastern Europe Energy Efficiency and Environment Partnership (E5P) to cover Armenia, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, in addition to Ukraine. Participants welcome prospects for enhanced nuclear safety cooperation. They look forward to the implementation of the nuclear stress tests including the recommendations resulting from them.

36. The participants of the Vilnius Summit express their commitment to strengthen further the cooperation in the area of customs including through Integrated border management. Cooperation will focus on developing safe and fluid trade lanes, promoting risk management, the fight against fraud and investing in customs modernisation in the region

37. The participants of the Vilnius Summit highlight the importance of people to people contacts for the achievement of the Partnership’s objectives. In the fields of higher education and youth, EU support will aim at increasing the participation of Higher Education Institutions and students from partner countries in the new “Erasmus+” programme. Support to the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions will continue and where possible should be increased. Cooperation on youth issues including under Erasmus+ will allow for enhanced youth employability and young people’s active participation in democratic life. Summit participants also highlight the opportunities for cooperation in the field of culture opened by the Creative Europe Programme. The policy dialogue on the modernisation of cultural policies in Eastern European partners will be continued. The policy dialogues on health will also be continued, with a particular focus on both communicable and non-communicable diseases and health security.

38. To enhance agriculture and rural development cooperation, Summit participants welcome the Republic of Moldova’s intention to host in January 2014 an Eastern Partnership Conference of Agriculture Ministers aimed at promoting approximation to the EU Acquis as appropriate, supporting agricultural and rural sector reforms in Eastern European countries and further developing cooperation with the EU in this area in particular through the ENPARD approach. They stress the importance of civil society involvement and the ownership by partners among the ENPARD implementation principles. The participants of the Vilnius Summit stress the importance of cooperation in food safety, animal and plant health and to continue technical and financial support in these areas through the available instruments.

39. The participants of the Vilnius Summit recall the importance of research and innovation as key drivers for socio-economic growth and stress the need for reinforced cooperation in those domains to achieve a Common Knowledge and Innovation Space. They notably highlight the need for supporting the reinforcement of Eastern European partner countries’ capacities in research and innovation as well as increased cooperation in the forthcoming EU “Horizon 2020” programme.

40. The participants of the Vilnius Summit stress the strategic importance and necessity of closer cooperation in the areas of environment and climate change as priorities for action. They highlight the need to pursue the process of regulatory approximation and policy convergence in these fields with particular attention to be paid to the green economy, biodiversity, a shared environmental information system and environmental assessments, the integration of environmental concerns into other sectors and the significant role of civil society. They call for full and effective implementation of multilateral environmental agreements and for continuing efforts to greening economies including those contained in Rio+20 “The Future We Want” Declaration. They underline the importance for Eastern Partnership societies and economies to engage in measures and cooperation to step up their actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to climate change. In this context they strongly confirmed their engagement in developing the global agreement on climate change to be adopted in 2015 in Paris for it to come into effect and be implemented from 2020. They stress the need to continue EU assistance, in particular in view of establishing a fully operational Shared Environmental Information System and for enabling ambitious further action, both in the period up to 2020 and in the longer term as well as to foster regional environmental initiatives.

41. With regard to information society and media policy development, which is a tool for the promotion of universal and European values, political stability, economic growth and social justice the participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome and further encourage the continuation of capacity building with EU support in the area of electronic communications regulation, promotion of related policies such as eSignature, eHealth and Media aiming at creating a common room for interoperable cross-border services. They also look forward to partners’ participation in the relevant part of the “Horizon 2020” programme and their enhanced involvement in electronic infrastructures for education and research.

42. Summit participants stress the importance to further develop the Eastern European partners’ participation in EU programmes and their cooperation with EU Agencies.

Strengthen multilateral cooperation


43. The participants of the Vilnius Summit acknowledge the significance of multilateral cooperation in support of deeper bilateral relations. As the bilateral dimension gradually moves from a phase of negotiation to one of implementation, it will be important to strengthen the linkage between the bilateral and multilateral dimensions so as to ensure that the multilateral dimension continues to effectively support partners in their approximation efforts. The work of the multilateral dimension should effectively feed into bilateral cooperation and encourage synergies. At the same time, the fora of the multilateral dimension are the place where exchanges between the EU and all six partners can be held and therefore their agendas should remain inclusive and encourage the active participation of all. The new Work Programmes of the multilateral Platforms recently adopted should be implemented with these considerations in mind. Welcoming the sector Ministerial meetings in the fields of JHA and Transport, they encourage the continuation of meetings at Ministerial level in these and other areas as appropriate, on a regular basis. Building on the already existing informal Partnership dialogues, the participants of the Vilnius Summit decided to launch a structural dialogue in foreign policy, including as appropriate by strengthening regular meetings both at Ministerial and Senior Officials’ level. They welcome and look forward to complementary and reinforcing national programmes, such as, inter alia, the Estonian Centre of Eastern Partnership focused on administrative capacity as well as the Eastern Partnership Academy of Public Administration in Warsaw.

44. Recalling the importance of cooperation in the CSDP area, the participants of the Vilnius Summit look forward to the further strengthening of multilateral and bilateral security dialogue and practical CSDP cooperation between the EU and interested partner countries, notably through the work to be carried out by the CSDP Panel. They underline the role to be played by such a forum in support of the developing cooperation with the interested partner countries in the areas covered by the Framework Participation Agreements. They welcome the contribution by Ukraine of a frigate to the EU-led operation EUNAVFOR Atalanta as of January 2014 as well as the readiness of Georgia and Republic of Moldova to contribute to EU-led operations to which they have been recently invited. They also appreciate Ukraine’s commitment to contribute to EU Battlegroups in 2014 and 2016.

45. They also highlight the importance of the Eastern Partnership multilateral dimension in strengthening cooperation between partners as well as with the EU, including through territorial cooperation especially cross-border cooperation.

46. The participants of the Vilnius Summit invite the European Commission to continue promoting and strengthening visible and effective Flagship initiatives adding value to existing cooperation, with an enhanced participation of EU Member States and partner countries. They will contribute to demonstrating to citizens the tangible benefits brought about by the Partnership through practical projects.

47. In order to improve the business environment in the partner countries, further assistance to support the assessment and implementation of sustainable and effective SME policies will be undertaken within the framework of the multilateral dimension of the Eastern Partnership.

48. Acknowledging the significance of Eastern Partnership multilateral cooperation, the Summit participants stress the importance of ensuring coherence between various relevant regional initiatives and networks. They recall that the Eastern Partnership could help develop closer ties among the partner countries themselves.

49. The participants emphasized the importance of developing regional cooperation through the involvement of partners as appropriate in implementing EU macro-regional strategies. They also encourage the development of efficient inter-regional and cross border cooperation dialogue, including EGTC (European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation), to facilitate partners’ social and economic development.

50. The participants of the Summit highlight the significant role of local democracy and citizen participation in pursuing the goals of the Eastern Partnership. The principles of local democracy represent a universal European value corroborated by the European Charter of Local Self-Government. Local governments are important providers of public services. The participants support the inclusion of local and regional authorities in the implementation of the relevant Eastern Partnership policies and strategies and encourage the representatives of national associations of local and regional authorities and CORLEAP to enhance their contribution to the Eastern Partnership. The role of local and regional authorities could be also strengthened through targeted support, including through capacity building.

Financial support


51. Summit participants note that the new European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) the successor instrument to the 2007-2013 European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, will be the main instrument for EU financial assistance to EU neighbourhood partner countries over the period 2014-2020. They note that partner countries will continue to receive financial support in line with the incentive based approach introduced within the European Neighbourhood Policy by the 2011 review. Assistance will be focused on a few sectors of concentration, with the aim of increasing ownership, quality and results as a means to contribute towards the modernisation and social cohesion of societies. Support to the implementation of the Association Agreements/DCFTAs, effective regulatory approximation and administrative capacity building will be at the core of EU support under ENI. They agree that future EU assistance should take into account the provisional application of the Association Agreements including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas and encourage the necessary consultations to this end. Two specific initiatives for multi-country support: the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) and Cross- Border Cooperation (CBC) will continue extending financial support in specific priority areas. They look forward, under the ENI, to building upon the results of the recently launched Eastern Partnership Territorial Cooperation Programme. Underlining the importance of an enhanced coordination and coherence of support of all donors providing funding to the Eastern European partners, the participants of the Vilnius Summit call for the Eastern Partnership reform agenda to be considered as a key reference for the overall EU support.

52. The participants of the Vilnius Summit welcome the important contribution already made and to be further extended by EIB and EBRD in supporting the partner countries in their reform efforts. They welcome EIB’s intention to develop its activity based on its future external lending mandate in the framework of the Eastern Partnership financing projects that help connect the EU with the eastern neighborhood, boost development and address challenges in the region’s energy, environment and transport sectors. In order to promote economic development, innovation and job creation, the participants of the Vilnius Summit look forward to work by the EIB exploring possible options to further support risk capital operations in Eastern European partner countries in cooperation with other European Financing Institutions active in this field in the region. They welcome EBRD’s intention to continue its support to the private sector development, in particular by reinforcing the financial sector and facilitating access of SMEs to finance denominated in local currency, and the support to sustainable energy and to the public infrastructure.

53. The macro-financial assistance programmes in Ukraine and Georgia are foreseen to progress in 2014-2015 when the preconditions are met and when the programmes are linked to a meaningful reform agenda. The EU macro-financial assistance instrument may also be mobilised in the future to assist partner countries to address short-term balance-of-payments difficulties when the pre-conditions are met and when the programmes are linked to a meaningful reform agenda. Continued dialogue and exchange of analysis and advice within the Eastern Partnership could lead to further implementation of structural reforms, fiscal consolidation and thus a strengthening of economic activity.

Stakeholder involvement


54. The participants of the Vilnius Summit underline the need to further strengthen civil society. Summit participants also recognise the important role played by civil society, through the Civil Society Forum and its national platforms, in partners’ reform processes in encouraging dialogue between civil society and partner countries’ authorities on achieving the goals of the Eastern Partnership. They emphasize the importance of continuing to make available adequate resources as appropriate to support the capacity development and further involvement of civil society in national reform processes.

55. Summit participants welcome the steps made by the Conference of local and regional authorities of the Eastern Partnership to develop cooperation at the levels of government closest to the citizen and take note of the results of its annual meeting held in Vilnius on 4-5 September 2013. The Summit also encourages enhanced inter-parliamentary cooperation within the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly 2014-15.

56. Welcoming the outcome of the Business Forum held in Vilnius on 28 November 2013, the participants of the Vilnius Summit invite the business communities in EU and partner countries to further develop the Business Forum and to use this platform to exploit the new economic opportunities offered. They also encourage the social partners (employers’ organizations and trade unions), including through the Civil Society Forum where appropriate, to work more closely together as a means to advance in 2014-15 in the area of economic convergence and regulatory approximation. They underline the need to promote investment, research-industry partnerships as well as a vibrant and innovative SME sector to contribute to broad-based, inclusive growth and job creation. They stress the role to be played by SMEs in economic development in partner countries and the need to develop and implement business-friendly policies to facilitate investment. They recognize the contribution of a well-functioning social dialogue to support socio-economic reforms and inclusive growth. They indicate their intention of enhancing cooperation in the field of employment and social policy, notably by involving social partners.

57. They invite EU institutions, EU Member States, Eastern European partners and other stakeholders to contribute to the Eastern Partnership visibility Strategy implementation by further informing society in partner countries and the EU of benefits derived from the Partnership, the implementation of the Agreements concluded in the framework of the Partnership for citizens, businesses and the society as a whole.

58. Summit participants look forward to their next Summit in Riga in the first half of 2015 where they intend to review the implementation of this Declaration and of Agreements concluded and chart the way ahead in the Partnership.

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Remarks by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy at the press conference of the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius

This was the 3rd Eastern Partnership Summit. And it is with great satisfaction that we had such a high level of participation of leaders from both the European Union and the Eastern partner countries, as well as from our stakeholders. This sends a strong message on the importance we attach to the Eastern Partnership, our commitment and shared ownership. The European Union is a dynamic project. European aspirations and European choice are not vane words.

The European Union believes in close political ties and in the power of shared prosperity because we know the benefits they bring to both sides. This was the starting point when we embarked upon this journey four years ago, at the first Eastern Partnership summit in Prague. All thirty-four countries that have met here today share a geographical and economic space. Only by working closely together can we serve the interests of our citizens.

Today, we welcomed the steps taken since the Warsaw Summit to strengthen the Eastern Partnership, with the objective of building a common area of shared democracy, prosperity, stability and increased interactions and exchanges. We agreed on the importance of continuing to strengthen our ties. Resolving potential conflicts, building trust and nurturing good neighbourly relations is essential to peace, to economic and social development and cooperation in the region.

Today marks an important milestone in the advancement of our common endeavour. We have finalised the negotiations of the most far-reaching agreements towards political association and economic integration ever conducted by the European Union. This was marked by our initialling with Georgia and Republic of Moldova of Association Agreements, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas. We will now jointly work towards a signature of these agreements as soon as possible in the course of next year. This has to become an irreversible project.

We also signed a Visa Facilitation Agreement with Azerbaijan, and a Framework Participation Agreement for participation in EU-led crisis management operations with Georgia. And yesterday we initialled a Common Aviation Area Agreement with Ukraine. We also have an agreement on an Eastern Partnership transport network, with a list of priority projects. And we welcomed the announcement by Belarus that it is ready to start negotiations on a Visa Facilitation Agreement with the European Union, and such an agreements will to the benefits of all its citizens.

We have set ambitious goals to be attained by 2015, ranging from strengthening democracy, human rights and the rule of law, to gradual steps towards visa-free regimes, improving the business climate, cooperation in research and innovation, improving transport networks and increasing people to people contacts. So, the list of deliverables is good and substantial.

Unfortunately, we did not manage on this occasion to sign the Association Agreement including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with Ukraine and to initialise a similar agreement with Armenia. The European Union’s position remains clear. The offer of signing the most ambitious agreement the European Union has ever offered to a non-Member State is still on the table. We stand ready to sign with Ukraine once the benchmarks put forward by the European Union are met and we are really close. We may not miss this rendez-vous with history later on. We have to set aside short term considerations and we have to overcome pressure from abroad. This is a time of courage, this is a time of decisions.

We will now work on the joint goals that we have agreed upon on the occasion of this summit, and we look forward to our next summit in 2015, where we will review the implementation of our commitments and chart the way ahead in the Eastern Partnership.

Let me conclude by once again thanking President Grybauskaite for her hospitality in the magnificent city of Vilnius, and all the leaders from the Eastern partner countries and from the European Union for a truly stimulating debate during these two days.

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Opening remarks by President of the European CouncilHerman Van Rompuy at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius

When we embarked upon this journey four years ago, we started with a vision: to bring the relationship between the European Union and its Eastern European partners to a new level: to deepen our bilateral engagement and build a strong platform for cooperation and dialogue.

In order to advance our cooperation in the Eastern Partnership, it is important to remember and acknowledge the interests and goals that bind us together.

We share a genuine interest in coming closer. Our chief objective is to build a common area of shared democracy, prosperity, stability and increased relations and exchanges. To ensure stability and prosperity on the European continent, we need to reinforce cooperation. Resolving potential conflicts, building trust and nurturing good neighbourly relations: all of this is essential to economic and social development.

Member States of the European Union have become privileged destinations for many of your citizens travelling abroad for studies, pleasure or business. Over two million Schengen visas were issued in 2012 in your countries. Ukraine was the biggest country with over 1 million visas. It is positive that we are making progress in bringing our citizens closer. In this regard the young generation is important. Our current Erasmus Mundus programme for higher education plays a key role. I am glad that we can now launch the new “Erasmus +” programme, with the aim to increase the participation of higher education institutions and students from partner countries.

Our economies are strongly linked: a third both of your exports and of your imports are with the European Union and a big share of foreign direct investment in the Eastern partnership countries comes from EU companies. But there is a lot of untapped potential which should be capitalised. More economic integration between us, a better overall business climate would significantly contribute to our common competitiveness and generate more growth.

Our cooperation on energy also plays an important role. Together we aim to increase mutual energy security by developing further networks and gradual integration with the European Union’s internal energy market. A key development is the Southern Gas Corridor.

Together with some of our partners, we are taking today a leap forward, towards political association and economic integration. I would like to congratulate again Georgia and the Republic of Moldova on finalising the negotiations on the most far-reaching Agreements the European Union has entered into: Association Agreements including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas. At the same time, we should not forget the other Agreements that have also been signed here: the Visa Facilitation Agreement with Azerbaijan and the Framework Agreement for participation in EU-led crisis management operations with Georgia.

For Georgia and Moldova, today is an historic opportunity. After three years of intensive negotiations these countries are coming closer to the European Union through political association and economic integration. Congratulations on this achievement. Much work now remains to be done to enable us to sign these agreements as soon as possible. For these partners, the key task now is implementation.

With Azerbaijan, we are advancing on the establishment of a Strategic Modernisation Partnership as a complement to an Association Agreement. We look forward to signing the Readmission Agreement and the Mobility Partnership in the very near future.

We welcome Armenia’s declared wish to take forward the relations with the European Union in all possible areas without prejudice to commitments under the Customs Union. Both of us acknowledge the importance of the work carried out in almost four years of negotiations and the positive impact that these negotiations have had. We will reflect jointly on a possible way forward for our relations.

Ukraine has decided to suspend the process of preparation for signature of the Association Agreement and DCFTA. We remain convinced that the agreement is the most ambitious one that the European Union has ever offered a non-Member State. The European Union’s position remains clear. The offer to sign an unprecedented Association Agreement and DCFTA is still on the table. We believe that the agreement is in the long-term interest of the Ukrainian people.

Our relations with Belarus continue to be far below their potential. There are significant possibilities available in order to develop our relations once the political circumstances are in place.

On the multilateral level, much has happened during the last four years. We have intensified our exchanges, developed sector cooperation and ensured our stakeholders play a central role in our relations. This dimension, which is often underestimated, is an essential component of the Partnership. It is there that cooperation amongst partners flourishes, that important exchanges occur and that the spirit of joint ownership takes root.

We are conscious of the fact that, in addition to the reforms our partners have been undertaking the last few months, they have also been faced with unacceptable internal and external pressures. The European Union has been very clear in its support for its Eastern partners. It has recalled the fundamental right of each country freely to determine its foreign policy and its trade policy, as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act. That makes us different from others. We respect each other.

Having said this, further progress in certain areas will of course depend on the overall state of relations. The Eastern Partnership is not only a matter of choice, it is a matter of necessity. We share a geographical and economic space. Only by working closely together, understanding our respective sensitivities and constraints, can we serve the interests of our citizens. Let us never forget why we are working on all this. We have the long term interest of our people in mind, of our people in Europe and close to Europe.

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Address by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy during the signature ceremony with Azerbaijan, Moldova and Georgia at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius

This Visa Facilitation Agreement is a step further in bringer Azerbaijan closer to our Union.
Today is also an important moment in the European Union’s relations with Georgia and Moldova

Your efforts, your determination, your courage and political will have brought us here today, to initial the most far-reaching agreements ever negotiated by the European Union with partner countries. Congratulations are due to the authorities in Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, and to the civil society contributors who have supported these efforts.

This negotiation process has once again confirmed Georgia and Moldova’s historic ties with the countries of the European Union. We share culture and we share values. I trust that together we will continue to promote democracy, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

From the outset the European Union’s countries and institutions have respected the sovereign choice of our partners and not exerted undue pressure. I am glad that the societies of Georgia and Moldova have responded positively to the European Union’s continued commitment to engagement, and to our invitation to develop deeper political and economic relations. I have no doubt that this will bring many benefits to all sides. I am pleased to see that we are well on our way.

The next steps in this ambitious process will be a challenge. But making them happen in time will enable us to sign these agreements as soon as possible next year, and then begin provisional application, and then full implementation. Still, I believe that the agreements just initialled have already left a lasting mark on our relationship. So many reforms are already underway.

With these agreements, the European Union, Georgia and Moldova and their citizens will come closer together, in areas as diverse as foreign and security policy, energy, transport, or education.

It will enlarge the area of stability and prosperity on the continent, allowing us to make the best use of our combined potential. It will further strengthen the common values on which our relationship is based. And hopefully it will also contribute to overcoming existing conflicts in your countries.

I also want to recall the European Union’s unwavering commitment to Moldova’s and Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Through the different negotiations in which we participate and through our support missions – the monitoring mission and the border assistance mission – the European Union demonstrates its concrete commitment to these principles. At the same time we expect Moldova and Georgia to fully play their part.

I am convinced that your decision will give your countries more solid foundations for the future generations. This is what your citizens deserve and will greatly benefit from. This was the dream and hope of so many decades and centuries ago. We owe it to them to continue our efforts.

The EU and the Republic of Azerbaijan signed today a visa facilitation agreement (15554/13) at a ceremony that took place in Vilnius, in the margins of the Eastern Partnership Summit. On behalf of the EU, the agreement was signed by Linas Linkevičius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania in his capacity as President of the Council of the European Union, and by Štefan Füle, Commissioner with responsibility for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. For Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, signed the agreement.

The agreement will now be sent to the European Parliament with a view to obtaining its consent before it can be concluded. It will enter into force on the first day of the second month following the date on which the two parties notify each other that the internal procedures have been completed, or at the date of the entry into force of the EU-Azerbaijan readmission agreement if that date is later. The two agreements shall enter into force together. The UK, Ireland and Denmark are not bound by the agreement.

Main provisions

The agreement makes it easier and cheaper for citizens of Azerbaijan, in particular those who travel most, to acquire short-stay visas allowing them to travel to and freely throughout the EU. A short-stay visa is a visa for an intended stay of no more than 90 days in any period of 180 days.

For some categories of frequent travellers and under certain conditions, member states are supposed to issue multiple-entry visas with a validity from one to up to five years. Holders of diplomatic are exempted from the visa obligation.

The agreement also provides that the visa handling fee will not be collected for certain categories of applicants, including members of official delegations, children below the age of twelve, pensioners, researchers and students.

Following the mandate given by the Council on 19 December 2011, the European Commission started the negotiations of the visa facilitation agreement with Azerbaijan. After concluding the negotiations the agreement was initialed on 29 July 2012.

Context

Visa facilitation agreements go usually hand-in-hand with readmission agreements between the EU and third countries. The readmission agreement with Azerbaijan is expected to be signed soon, after the three-month deadline for the opt-in of the United Kingdom and Ireland expires and the relevant Council decision is adopted. Both, the visa facilitation and the readmission agreements will enter into force on the same day, as mentioned above.

Readmission agreements set out clear obligations and procedures for the authorities of EU member states and the third countries concerned as to when and how to take back people who are illegally residing on the territories of the parties. They cover not only the illegally staying nationals of both parties but also third country nationals and stateless persons being in an irregular situation provided they have a clear link with the requested party (e.g. visa or resident permit). Full respect of Human Rights as provided by the European Convention of Human Rights is guaranteed during the application of readmission agreements.

So far, the EU has signed visa facilitation and readmission agreements with eleven countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia, Cape Verde and Armenia.

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Opening remarks by President Barroso at the Plenary Session of the 3rd Eastern Partnership Summit

In the four years since Prague, much has been done to strengthen our links through political association and economic integration.

As I mentioned yesterday over dinner, I am proud to have been present, with some of you, at the launch of this initiative four years ago in Prague. I am proud that the European Commission has helped to shape this policy in the last four years with the help of my colleagues in the Commission, Cathy Ashton, Stefan Füle and Karel de Gucht and others.

Ultimately, what we are trying to achieve with our Eastern Partnership is to bring the space of prosperity, security and stability that we enjoy in the European Union to our close neighbours in the East.

Yesterday we heard at length the strategic nature of our relations, today President Van Rompuy touched on the more political aspects, so let me now concentrate on the concrete benefits of our Partnership to our countries and citizens. We heard last night from the leaders of Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the President of Lithuania of the progress in these countries from the support from the European Union. The European Union is a guarantee of independence for these countries and for their economic progress.

First of all, the economic benefits. Our bilateral relations have developed dynamically. For example, over the ten years from 2002 to 2012 EU exports of goods and imports from the six Eastern Partnership countries have more than tripled. Moreover, trade in goods with our eastern partners, as a percentage of our total trade, has almost doubled. Integration is already happening. This is evidence of a growing relationship, of its mutually beneficial nature and of the enormous potential that can be further developed.

The positive effect that EU related reforms have had in many countries all over Europe can best be demonstrated by the performance of the so-called EU10 countries in the period 1990-1996. All the EU10 signed Association Agreements with the EU in the early 1990s, more than 10 years before their accession – and, what are the results:

From 1990 to 1996, GDP per capita increased by 57%;

Investments per capita increased in the EU10 by 61%;

Exports per capita increased by 65% in the EU10.

I make this point because I have heard propaganda that the Association Agreements with the European Union are to the detriment of the countries. This is false.

The economic potential of access to the EU will also be significantly increased thanks to regulatory approximation with EU legislation, going well beyond simple tariff dismantling for goods.

This will contribute to create a more favourable business climate, attract investors and strengthen the competitiveness of companies, while ensuring high levels of social, environmental and consumer protection. It will provide governance rules, especially for SMEs.

For the past 50 years the European Union has been a “convergence machine” – as the World Bank has called us – that have turned the EU into the world’s largest single market by value, with over half a billion people, 23 million Small and Medium Sized Enterprises, a GDP of €12.7 trillion, and 20% share of world exports. And, our neighbours have greatly benefitted from this.

But, all this goes much beyond pure economic exchange. It is also about transforming lives and societies. It is about achieving our Partnership’s broader political objectives, based on shared values and principles: freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Mobility and visa issues have also been at the forefront of our co-operation. This week and in recognition of the fulfilment of the benchmarks that had been set, the European Commission adopted a proposal to establish a visa free regime with Moldova. We hope that in future, following the full implementation of all the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan benchmarks, we will be able to do likewise with other partners too.

Energy security is a further condition for sustainable development. Our Eastern partners play different roles as producing, transit and consuming countries. Thus, co-operation in areas such as regulation, infrastructure development, sustainable energy and nuclear security are all important.

2013 saw some very significant energy security developments. These included: (i) the decision of the Shah Deniz Consortium in favour of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline this is an important advance in the first phase of the Southern Gas Corridor which I have been pushing together with President Alyiev; (ii) the development of capacity for bi-directional gas flows and (iii) new connections with the EU energy market allowing the import of gas from the EU.

These are important developments. However, in my view energy security in both the EU and partner countries requires market integration on the basis of energy sector reforms which support and attract investment. For this, we need stable and transparent regulatory regimes and we need to have everybody playing by the same rules. Here our Energy Community has a key role to play.

But, to develop our potential, our economies need adequate transport capacity. Thus, we welcome the engagement of all in the Eastern Partnership transport network. A list of priority projects should give substance to our goal of bringing the EU and our partners closer together. A number of aviation agreements are being worked on; we signed this morning one such Agreement with Ukraine. Safer, more efficient and sustainable transport links will have a positive impact on our trade flows and people-to-people contacts.

We have been committed in all these areas. After the inception of the EaP the Commission made available €2.5 billion in grants for bilateral and regional programmes. A further €4.1 billion has been leveraged from European financial institutions through the Neighbourhood Investment Facility.

All these figures and examples are a clear demonstration that – besides the transformative impact of our agenda – this Partnership also brings clear and tangible benefits in the short term.

Our agenda does not propose to go back to the past to secure our present. It does not propose to trade our future for the sake of our present. On the contrary, it gives a sense to the present and past because there is a sense of direction in our future journey.

Of course, some of these decisions are not easy. They require sustained effort, vision and leadership. It is thus important that we communicate clearly our vision and that we lay out the challenges. It is important that we speak clearly to our people. They will not always agree with us, but they will certainly understand, as they do, the strategic sense of our march.

For those partners committed to reform, political association and economic integration, the EU will continue to encourage and accompany your march. We will keep providing political, economic and financial assistance and share know-how to ensure that our aid brings lasting change and realises the promise of our Partnership.

I know it is sometimes difficult and takes time to get agreement with all EU Members states. But my message to you is that we stand by you and if you keep your responsibilities, I have hope and confidence that we can go on this journey.

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Opening remarks by President Barroso at initialling ceremony of the Association Agreements with Georgia and Moldova

I am delighted to stand here today and to witness this historic event – the initialling of the Association Agreements and the related DCFTAs with Georgia and Moldova. This is an important milestone – it marks the start of a new phase in our relationship.

We embarked upon these negotiations a few years ago. We knew then that important work lay ahead. Now, however, we can say that the efforts paid off. We may allow ourselves a moment to draw breath, to celebrate and to gather strength before proceeding further on our journey together.

Perhaps, it is that word “together” that is now the most important. From now on, our economies and a growing number of sectors in our societies will be linked. We will increasingly work together.

The Agreements initialled today are the most advanced of their type ever negotiated by the EU. In terms of trade and economic integration they go far beyond simple market opening. They grant greater access to the world’s largest, single market and will bring benefits in terms of increased trade, investment and job creation. When provisionally applied, the vast majority of customs duties on goods will be removed. Together, we will be able to eliminate close to 100% of all duties in trade value – immediately as far as the EU is concerned, and more gradually in the case of your countries.

Of course, it is not just trade. There will be more sectoral co-operation. We look forward to your increased participation in European Union programmes and agencies and to working with you more in sectors such as civil protection, energy, environment, etc.

At this point, by way of example, let me highlight two particular sectors. Earlier today Georgia signed a Framework Participation Agreement on CSDP co-operation. This makes possible your participation in EU security-related operations.

In the case of Moldova, and in recognition of the efforts made, the Commission this Wednesday tabled a proposal to make possible the liberalisation of our visa regime. When approved, our citizens will increasingly move and work together.

As President of the European Commission I may also say that the institution I lead will work with you to lock in these advances. Today, we initial the Association Agreements. I am determined, however, that both agreements will be signed within the mandate of this Commission (i.e. during 2014).

Today celebrations are in order. But, let us not forget that in the coming months and years, the demanding task of provisional application and then full implementation of these comprehensive agreements awaits us.

Here too, working together will be necessary. Georgia has just had elections; Moldova will have them next year. Our countries need popularly elected, determined governments and competent, but loyal, oppositions. Both government and opposition will need to work together to maintain national consensus on the chosen European paths.

Your parliamentarians will need to scrutinise and adopt legislation giving national form and content to the agreements we have initialled today.

Finally, be assured that the EU will stand with you. This is a joint endeavour. We have an interest in your success. We too will profit too from your advancement, your stability and your security. I am convinced that our joint efforts will be rewarded with greater security, accelerating economic development, improved living conditions and increased prosperity for us all. I look forward to travelling this road with you!

***

Statement by President Barroso at the Eastern Partnership Summit

Four years ago, when we launched the Eastern Partnership, our objective was to support partner countries’ political and economic reforms, to assist their modernisation process and to move them closer to the European Union, while respecting the degree of closeness chosen by each one.

This Vilnius Summit has been a summit of real progress, a Summit where we have delivered on our commitments.

The Association Agreements which Moldova and Georgia have been initialled today and they are a very important force for change.

I firmly believe that these Association Agreements including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area provide the best possible opportunity for political and economic reform today. History can show us why.

In the early 1990s, ten central and eastern European countries signed up to Free Trade Agreements with the European Union, including the country where we are today. Within 6 years, the GDP per capita in these countries had increased by 57%. Investment per capita had increased by 61%. And exports per capita had increased by 65%. As a result of these Agreements, those ten countries began one of the major transformations of their recent history.

So I think it is very important to remind us of the record already of Free Trade Agreements that we have before the accession of the new Member states of the European Union.

Contrary to what some are suggesting, these Association Agreements and Free Trade Agreements have been an extremely important contribution to growth, to jobs, to social and economic development in all those partners. Partners, some of them that today are full members of the European Union. One of them is having the current Presidency of the Council, it is precisely Lithuania.

Yesterday and today we have discussed about this. Many of those new Member states said what they have gained becoming members of the European Union and how important is the European Union as a guarantee of independence and of social economic development.

During our summit, today and yesterday we have reiterated to Ukraine that the offer to sign these Agreements remains on the table, provided the government of Ukraine delivers on its commitments.

This Agreement would save Ukrainian business some 500 million euros a year just in import duties. It would increase Ukraine’s GDP by more than six per cent in the longer term. And by confirming Ukraine’s modernisation pledge, it would also give momentum to billion-euro loan negotiations with International Financial Institutions. The Ukrainian people have demonstrated these last days that they fully understand the strategic nature of the reform’s path. We know how much the Ukrainian people feel European, how much they care about Europe, how much they aspire to be recognised as members of the democratic community of nations of Europe and we will of course now pursue our conversations with our Ukrainian partners, knowing well that we should always respect Ukraine’s sovereign decisions.

Because this partnership was from the very outset based on the key principles of mutual respect, transparency, individual and collective ownership.

This Partnership was never an imposition, but rather a proposition.

And all stand to gain. Our neighbours; and the neighbours of our neighbours. Let me be clear, this is a process for something. This is a process not against someone. This is a process for something; it is for democracy, for stability and for prosperity. It is not against someone, because I don’t believe someone should be against democracy, against stability or against prosperity.

And our partnership also has a real meaning for the citizens.

Take firstly the issue of travelling without the need for a visa. Something very concrete, something all our young people in Europe want: freedom of movement. Just a fortnight ago, the Commission published its final report on visa liberalisation for Moldovan citizens. Moldova has met all the benchmarks set, so the European Commission has already issued a proposal to enable visa-free travel to the European Union for Moldovan citizens who own a biometric passport.

Today, we have also signed a Visa Facilitation Agreement with Azerbaijan, which will make the process of applying for an European Union visa easier. By the way, with Azerbaijan, today we’ve heard the President and also the members of the European Union showing their commitment to the progress in our strategic modernisation partnership. And today also, we knew about the willingness of Belarus to negotiate a Visa Facilitation Agreement. I’m sure this will be for the benefit of the Belarusian citizens, especially their young people. And I also hope that the future democratisation of Belarus will enable the country to fully seize the potential of this partnership. So, the point I want to make clear is the following: the Eastern Partnership is not just about the economy or not just about abstract concepts; it’s about concrete benefits for citizens, removing barriers, enabling people to meet each other. It is in fact a transformational project of the highest importance.

An important issue that we also discussed is energy. Making sure that no European nation is an energy island – isolated from European networks. That is why we have taken very tangible steps over the last years to link our neighbours to the EU market, through new corridors, new physical connections, the possibility of reverse flows, support for their domestic energy reforms and so on, everything to bolster our shared energy security.

And today we have shown, as European Union, that we can deliver on our commitments. I want to thank all of those that made possible the progress today. And allow me a special word of thanks to my colleagues in the Commission. Of course to Vice-President and High Representative Cathy Ashton, but also to Commissioner Füle, who is responsible for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy and of course Commissioner for trade Karel De Gucht. And other colleagues also that are giving their contribution in energy or in the issue of visa-free travel, from Commissioner Oettinger to Commissioner Malmström, the European Commission is fully behind this agenda and today I was very happy to see the strong support of all the European Union Member States and also the willingness of our partners in the East to go forward in this common journey.

***

Cecilia Malmström welcomes the signing of a Visa Facilitation Agreement with Azerbaijan

Today, the European Union and Azerbaijan signed an agreement to facilitate the procedures for issuing short-stay visas.

“I am very pleased that the visa facilitation agreement has been signed. It will allow citizens from Azerbaijan to travel more easily to the Schengen area, as well as for EU citizens to travel to Azerbaijan. This is a very tangible result of the Eastern Partnership and will further promote interaction between citizens of the EU and Azerbaijan”, said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

The EU-Azerbaijan Visa Facilitation Agreement was signed in Vilnius on the occasion of the third Eastern Partnership Summit by Commissioner Štefan Füle responsible for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy who welcomed it: “I am delighted we signed this agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. This is a significant milestones in the EU’s cooperation with Azerbaijan, one that will bring tangible benefits for Azerbaijani citizens.”

The EU-Azerbaijan Visa Facilitation Agreement was signed in Vilnius on the occasion of the third Eastern Partnership Summit.

It makes it cheaper and faster for all citizens of Azerbaijan to acquire short-stay visas allowing them to travel throughout the Schengen area.

The application process will be easier for many categories of citizens. The number of documents that needs to be presented to prove their purpose of traveling will be reduced. Moreover, certain categories of persons will benefit from a full visa fee waiver, such as students, journalists, representatives of civil society, or persons participating in scientific, cultural, artistic activities and sport events.

For large categories of persons the agreement also simplifies also the criteria for issuing multiple-entry visas valid up to five years.

Furthermore, the citizens of the EU and Azerbaijan holding diplomatic passports will be exempt from the visa requirement, contributing to facilitate contacts between the Azerbaijani authorities and the EU in the framework of the Eastern Partnership.

A short-stay visa is for an intended stay of no more than 90 days in any period of 180 days.

***

FACTSHEET

Eastern Partnership

The EU’s Eastern Partnership was launched at the Prague Eastern Partnership summit in May 2009. A second summit was held in Warsaw in September 2011. It concerns six partner countries in Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus: the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Through this initiative, the EU supports reforms in the partner countries that are aimed at consolidating democracy, the rule of law, the respect for human rights and an open market economy. At the same time, it offers gradual integration into the European economy, greater mobility for citizens and closer political ties.

Closer economic ties

The Eastern Partnership provides for Association Agreements with each of the participating states, which are to replace the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreements. Negotiations for them have been launched in January 2010 with the Republic of Moldova and in July 2010 with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Moldova completed its negotiations in June 2013 and Georgia in July 2013. Both countries are expected to initial their respective agreements at the Vilnius summit. The new accords include agreements on deep and comprehensive free trade areas. The EU has been negotiating with Ukraine since March 2007 for an Association Agreement and since February 2008 an agreement on a deep and comprehensive free trade area. These talks were concluded in 2012 and provided that Ukraine demonstrates determined action and tangible progress in areas set out by the EU in December 2012, the agreements could be signed in Vilnius. Since Azerbaijan is not yet a member of the WTO, a DCFTA with that country cannot be envisaged at this moment.

Nearly 2.5 billion euro has been committed by the EU during the 2010-13 period aimed at supporting partners’ reform furthering democratic and economic development. Furthermore, the European Investment Bank has stepped up its lending activity in the partner countries from 631 million euro in 2010 to an estimated 1.8 billion euro in 2013.

The negotiations for closer economic integration are complemented by the comprehensive institution building programme. It provides supports to key institutions of partner countries in the areas linked to the Association Agreements, DCFTAs, and the dialogue on mobility. A budget of EUR 167 million is available for this purpose.

Moreover, a total of EUR 62 million is reserved for pilot regional development programmes in partner states. Modelled on the EU cohesion policy, they are aimed at addressing economic and social imbalances through the development of local infrastructure, human resources and small- and medium-sized companies.

Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements with Azerbaijan

In September 2011 the Commission proposed to open negotiations on agreements to facilitate the procedures for issuing short-stay visas as well as on the readmission of irregular migrants between the European Union and Azerbaijan (IP/11/1052).

The visa facilitation and readmission negotiations with Azerbaijan followed the political commitment taken at the Prague Eastern Partnership Summit in May 2009 regarding the improvement of people–to people contacts.

In order to implement the visa facilitation, the readmission agreement also needs to be signed. The negotiation of the readmission agreement has been completed in parrelel and internal procedures towards its signature are being finalised up.

The European Parliament will then need to give its consent before both agreements can be concluded and finally enter into force simultaneously.

The UK and Ireland do not participate in the Visa facilitation Agreement; Denmark and the Schengen associated Countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) are invited to conclude bilateral Visa Facilitation Agreements on similar terms as the EU-Azerbaijan Visa Facilitation Agreement.

So far, the EU has signed visa facilitation and readmission agreements with eleven countries: Armenia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.

Background

The Eastern Partnership provides for the possibility of concluding Association Agreements with each of the participating states who currently have Partnership and Cooperation Agreements. Negotiations on such Agreements have been launched in January 2010 with the Republic of Moldova and in July 2010 with Azerbaijan, Armenia (discontinued in October 2013) and Georgia. Moldova completed its negotiations in June 2013 and Georgia in July 2013 and both countries are expected to initial their respective agreements at the Vilnius summit. The new accords include deep and comprehensive free trade areas. The EU has been negotiating with Ukraine since March 2007 for an Association Agreement including a deep and comprehensive free trade area. These talks were concluded in 2012. Ukraine decided in November 2013 to suspend temporarily the preparations for signing of the Agreement. Since Azerbaijan is not yet a member of the WTO, a DCFTA with that country cannot be envisaged at this moment. Ratification of an EU-Belarus Partnership and Cooperation Agreement has been frozen since 1997 due to the political situation in the country.

Visa liberalisation remains a shared objective of individual partner countries and the EU alike. This is a core objective of the Eastern Partnership and will be discussed by heads of state at the summit. Considerable progress has been made in the area of visa facilitation and liberalisation: with signature of an EU-Azerbaijan agreement at the summit, five out of six partners (all but Belarus) already have or will soon have Visa Facilitation Agreements with the EU; two of them (Georgia and Ukraine) have managed to advance even more – they now have Visa Liberalisation Actions Plans, prepared specifically to them, full and effective implementation of which will bring these countries visa free travels with the EU. For Moldova, the European Commission has adopted on 27 November a proposal to waive the visa obligation for Moldovan citizens in possession of biometric passports.

The agreement with Georgia on a framework for participation in EU crisis management operations provides a permanent legal basis for the involvement of Georgia in on-going and future EU crisis management efforts around the world. It can be activated whenever Georgia, upon the European Union’s invitation, decides to join an EU crisis management operation.

The European Commission received a mandate for negotiating a “Common Aviation Area” Agreement with Ukraine in December 2006. Both sides will soon start their respective internal procedures for the signature of the Agreement and its entry into force. Similar comprehensive air transport agreements have been signed with other neighbouring countries, namely the Western Balkans, Morocco, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova and Israel.

Increased mobility

Visa liberalisation remains a shared objective of individual partner countries and the EU alike. This is a core objective of the Eastern Partnership and will be discussed by heads of state at the summit. Considerable progress has been made in the area of visa facilitation and liberalisation: with signature of an EU-Azerbaijan agreement at the summit, five out of six partners (all but Belarus) already have or will soon have Visa Facilitation Agreements with the EU; three of them (Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) have managed to advance even more – they now have Visa Liberalisation Actions Plans, prepared specifically to them, full and effective implementation of which will bring these countries visa free travels with the EU.

Expanding cooperation

The establishing and the strengthening of the multilateral cooperation dimension, complementing the various bilateral cooperation and draft agreements, has proved a valuable forum for sharing information on and experience on transition processes, reform and modernisation. This dimension now includes senior officials and experts working in a number of different areas, from agriculture, research and environment to trade, migration and the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy.

Sectorial cooperation has also been enhanced, with the first Eastern partnership ministerial meetings in the fields of Justice and Home Affairs, and Transport, held in October 2013, in Luxembourg. In the field of justice large cooperation programmes have been launched and implemented in several countries, contributing to the improvement of democratic governance. Effective implementation of reforms in the area of justice remains key to further development of cooperation between the EU and its partners. On transport, achievements have made in improving infrastructure connections between the EU and the Partnership region. The summit is expected to welcome the adoption of an Eastern partnership regional transport network that indicates connections with the trans European transport networks and a list of priority projects agreed at the ministerial meeting in Luxembourg. The EU has also concluded Common Aviation Area Agreements with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. It is also expected to sign with Ukraine at the summit and has launched negotiations with Azerbaijan. These are concrete contributions in bringing the partner closer.

The summit and side events

Meetings of Heads of State and government within the Eastern Partnership are held every two years whereas foreign ministers meet every year. During these meetings, the implementation and the results of the Eastern Partnership are discussed, the objectives for the next two years are determined and the prospects for the future are drawn. The next summit will be held in Riga in the first half of 2015.

Since 2011, the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, bringing together members of the European Parliament with elected representatives from the six partner countries, are meeting regularly. A Civil Society Forum has also been established for representatives from the civil society of countries participating in the Eastern Partnership initiative and the EU (to be held in the margins of the summit). The Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of the Eastern Partnership have also been established to complement the intergovernmental strand.

Furthermore, and underlining the importance given to the role of civil society within the Eastern Partnership, this year, for the second time, a Business Forum is to be held in the margins of the summit in Vilnius and a Youth Forum was held in Kaunas (Lithuania) on 22-25 October 2013.

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