The Warsaw Voice » Polish Voice » Monthly - August 2, 2010
The Polish Voice: Special Issue
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Eastern Partnership
The European Union’s Eastern Partnership program, approved over a year ago, aims to help six former Soviet republics carry out democratic and economic reforms oriented toward closer cooperation with the EU, while keeping the door open to potential membership of the bloc.

The Eastern Partnership was initiated by Poland, which later asked Sweden to help develop the program. The program has since become one of the underpinnings of the Eastern Dimension of the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy.

Poland and Sweden unveiled their joint initiative at the beginning of 2008. The program was welcomed by the president of the European Commission and supported by the heads of all EU member states during a European Council meeting in June 2008. Dec. 3 that year, a draft version of the program was approved by the European Commission, which expanded it to include proposals for a free trade zone, association agreements and visa facilitations for citizens of the six partner countries. In the EU budget until 2013, funding for the program totals 700 million euros.

During an EU summit in Brussels March 20 last year, EU leaders gave the green light to the European Commission’s version of the program and the Eastern Partnership was officially launched May 7 this year at a meeting of the heads of EU member states and governments with the leaders of the six Eastern European countries

Predictably, the program met with criticism in Moscow. “Any partnership is better than a conflict, but what worries us is that in some countries attempts are being made to exploit this structure as a partnership against Russia,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said May 22 last year during an EU-Russia summit in Khabarovsk, eastern Russia.

The Partnership seeks to establish closer relations between the EU and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The EU plans to grant preferential treatment in trade to the six countries, address aid programs to them and introduce simpler visa procedures for their citizens.

The Polish government wants to use the partnership to prepare the six countries to join the EU at some point in the future. According to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, if everything goes to plan, the Partnership will bring the six countries closer to the EU, which may eventually result in full integration.

Founded on EU values, standards and norms, the partnership is designed to foster joint work in areas such as human rights, the market economy, sustainable development, good governance, and energy security. The Partnership involves central, regional and local government, nongovernmental organizations, financial institutions and other civil society organizations.

Third countries, including Russia, are eligible for participation in some projects carried out as part of multilateral cooperation within the Eastern Partnership.