In its capacity as the country presiding over the Council of the European Union (EU), Latvia held one of the major high-level foreign policy events of its Presidency – the Eastern Partnership (EaP) Summit in Riga on 21-22 May, 2015. The meeting brought together high-ranking officials from the 28 EU Member States and six EaP partner countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine – as well as the political leadership of EU institutions, including Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.
The Riga Summit confirmed the strategic importance of the EaP policy as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy within the overarching EU external policy. The Summit also addressed the current issues and challenges related to the implementation of the EaP and outlined the main directions in the EU’s cooperation with partner countries for the coming years.
The Riga Summit was launched on 21 May by an official working dinner for heads of EU and EaP member states. The Summit’s Plenary Session took place at the Latvian National Library on 22 May, with the participation of all of the high-ranking delegates, and was followed by a press conference to present the Summit’s results. The Heads of State from the EU and the EaP countries approved a joint declaration that provides an evaluation of what has been achieved till now and maps out the priorities and goals of the EaP in advance of the next summit.
One of the key political messages of the Summit was the confirmation of the strategic significance of the EaP policy, focussing on the partnership of each of the countries included and emphasising the readiness to develop and deepen the EU’s bilateral relations in a differentiated manner with each of the six partners countries on the basis of jointly formulated priorities. The multilateral framework of the EaP policy ensures a common platform for building sectorial cooperation at various levels and engagement of the wider public in cooperation. The Summit underscored the EaP policy-making principles – a partnership based on openness, transparency and mutual setting of shared goals, emphasising the fact that the EaP is not confrontational and not directed against any third parties.
The Riga Summit was the first summit since the signing of the Association Agreements between the EU and three partner countries – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. These agreements provide for a closer political association and economic integration between the EU and those countries. The Summit assessed the preliminary results of the provisional application of the Association Agreements. Successful implementation of the agreements will be one of key priorities in the EU’s relations with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, which will enable these partner countries to modernise their economies and social system. The EU pledged strong political and practical support for the application of the Association Agreements. Latvia believes that the signing and implementation of the Association Agreements in the three partner countries will form a sound basis for deepening of relations between the EU and Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Where the implementation of the Association Agreements proceeds successfully, Latvia is open to the consideration and introduction of further forms of integration with the partners.
The Summit also explored the development of opportunities offered by the EaP policy in cooperation with other three partner countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus. The EU confirmed its readiness to individualise its approach even more in the dialogue with these partner countries, deepening mutually beneficial cooperation with each in different fields.
The Riga Summit provided a platform for taking stock of the progress made with each of the six partner countries since the third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in the areas such as mobility (visa facilitation and short-term visa waiver), sectorial cooperation, EU support for reforms in the partner countries, the development of people-to-people contacts, as well as cooperation in energy, transport and other fields.
The summit discussion at the highest political level also provided additional input to the report on the review of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
Three large scale events were held as part of the summit in Riga, accentuating the role of the civil society and business contacts in the EaP policy.
On 20 May, the First Eastern Partnership Media Conference tool place in Riga, at which a discussion was held on current challenges to the media and pluralism in EaP countries, in order to promote the improvement of the media environment in the Eastern Neighbourhood region.
Taking forward the established tradition, the Third Eastern Partnership Business Forum was organized with the focus on intensifying business contacts between companies in the European Union and in Eastern Partnership countries.
At the Second Eastern Partnership Civil Society Conference, experts, politicians and government officials from EU Member States and the EaP region conversed about strengthening the role of civil society in the partner countries.
Previous Eastern Partnership Summits
The first EaP Summit took place in Prague (the Czech Republic) in 2009 and laid the foundation for a common and shared policy platform to develop the EU’s cooperation with six partner countries. The second EaP Summit held in Warsaw (Poland) in 2011 focused on the need for a differentiated approach in the EU’s relations with its partners and highlighted the significance of sectorial cooperation. The third EaP Summit in Vilnius (Lithuania) in 2013 marked a new stage in the development of the EaP policy by initialling the Association Agreement with Georgia.
More information on the Eastern Partnership available here.
More information on the Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga available here.
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