The Eastern Partnership launched in 2009 as a joint policy initiative to deepen and strengthen relations between the European Union, its Member States and its six Eastern neighbours: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine. On 24th November, the fifth Eastern Partnership Summit was held in Brussels to agree on future priorities, including stronger connectivity between the EU and Eastern partners by improved transport links and infrastructure.
The leaders agreed on a joint declaration reconfirming their commitment to the Eastern Partnership, and for the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of all its partners. There were calls for the peaceful and lawful settlement of regional conflicts, such as Nagorno-Karabakh (although no mention of Ukraine).
Leaders also welcomed the ’20 deliverables for 2020′ framework, which aims to improve the lives of citizens across the Eastern partners. One of the deliverables is stronger connectivity through improved transport links and infrastructure. The plan is to extend the core Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) to the Eastern partners: this is a €150 million contribution, leveraging more than €1 billion of strategic investments to support the development of roads, railways, ports and airports across the region.
The Summit acknowledged the European aspirations of partners who have signed association agreements (such as Georgia), and respect for others to choose their own level of ambition with the EU. In the margins of the summit, the EU and Armenia signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement and concluded an air services agreement.
The EU-Armenia Agreement omits free trade and is less ambitious than the association agreements signed by Georgia and others, but this is the first time that the EU has signed such an agreement with a party that is also a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. Officials in both Brussels and Yerevan stressed that the agreement does not impinge upon Armenia’s close relations with Russia.
Russia permitted the agreement to proceed but made its displeasure known. Russian media suggested that Armenia’s growing ties to the EU were inclining it to fascism and played up a tenet in the EU deal that referred to the need to close Armenia’s aging Metsamor nuclear power plant, suggesting it would leave Armenians in the dark. Russia’s envoy to the EU dismissed the event as a ‘propagandistic shell and a set of bilateral projects’.