The Minister has called for more European engagement for the EU’s eastern neighbours. Speaking today in Brussels, Maas said: “The aim must be to make clear to the local people that the close partnership with the EU is bearing fruit.” The EU Foreign Ministers had gathered to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the so-called Eastern Partnership.
Proposals for change
The initiative was launched by the European Union in 2009 to support democratic transformation and economic development in the states of Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus and is based on European values such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The EU Eastern Partnership countries comprise Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Embracing European values and goals
The initiative has achieved a great deal over the past ten years. Association agreements have been concluded with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Ties with Armenia are being promoted via an intensified partnership agreement, and negotiations on a new agreement with Azerbaijan are under way. Cooperation with Belarus has also intensified.
New impetus from Germany
Foreign Minister Maas announced his intention to use Germany’s EU Council Presidency in the coming year to inject new impetus into the Eastern Partnership. “The benefits will only reach the citizens if reforms in the countries are consistently implemented,” Maas stressed in Brussels. Germany intends to focus particularly on young people in the partnership with its eastern neighbours. To this end, it plans to promote vocational training projects and youth exchange and intensify networking among new entrepreneurs, for example.