The Eastern Partnership programme embodies a shift into a new stage of the European Union’s relations with its neighbours in the East and is an important tool for promoting reforms in these countries and their economic integration, and for helping them to facilitate the movement of persons, Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis says on the occasion of a one-year anniversary of the Eastern Partnership programme. The programme was announced on 7 May last year in Prague.
A year ago, Heads of State and Government of the EU and six neighbouring countries in the East - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine - officially launched an ambitious Eastern Partnership programme. It aims at a more harmonious cooperation between the EU and its neighbours in the East, and at a closer integration of these countries into the EU.
“This initiative testifies to a serious shift of the EU’s relations with theses countries, leading towards greater political commitments, the integration of these countries into the EU market, facilitated travelling to the EU for their citizens and cooperation in ensuring energy security and a more solid financial support,” the Minister says.
According to the Minister, the Eastern Partnership marks a new type of multilateral cooperation that will help to implement reforms in these countries and to jointly solve the problems.
> Eastern Partnership Map
Minister A.Ažubalis says that since its accession to the EU, Lithuania has been an initiator and consistent supporter of the EU’s Partnership with its neighbours in the East of such kind. Lithuania’s active participation in the Eastern Partnership programme became one of the priorities of the country’s foreign policy.
When implementing the Eastern Partnership programme, in the end of 2009 Lithuania in cooperation with Ukraine and Belarus prepared a wide range of possible trilateral projects, and continues to make suggestions to the European Commission regarding the aid to the EU’s neighbours in the East, implements specific projects of integrated border management, cultural heritage preservation and other, shares important experience of integration into the EU.
In addition to projects that will bring tangible benefit to the neighbours in the East, Lithuania’s priority list includes the conclusion of association agreements and comprehensive EU free trade agreements with Moldova, Ukraine and the South Caucasus countries, signing visa facilitation agreements with Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Lithuania also thinks that it is necessary to strengthen the EU’s efforts for full liberalization of the visa regime for the citizens of Moldovan, Ukrainian and Georgian.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania