Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 5
By Elena Kosolapova, Anakhanum Khidayatova - Trend:
The Eastern Partnership program of the European Union will continue to facilitate cooperation and strengthen relationship between the EU and its six partner countries in a flexible way, the EU spokesperson told Trend.
The Eastern Partnership program envisages political association and economic integration of EU with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. It does not envisage the EU membership.
Differentiation and more tailor-made relations are at the heart of the recent review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, in the broader framework of which the Eastern Partnership initiative operates, said the spokesperson.
"The EU remains committed to the Eastern Partnership as a strategic and ambitious partnership, and continues to support sustained reform processes in the partner countries," the spokesperson said.
At the last Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, held on May 21-22 2015, the EU and its six partner countries in this initiative agreed on four key priority areas of cooperation upon which to focus over the next years: strengthening institutions and good governance; enhancing mobility and people-to-people contacts; fostering market opportunities; and improving energy and transport interconnections, according to the EU spokesperson.
This also reflects the objectives set out in the recent review of the European Neighbourhood Policy, the spokesperson said.
"These four priority areas feed into one of the key aims of the Eastern Partnership, which is to strengthen the resilience of all partner countries and to bolster their ability to withstand pressures they may face," said the spokesperson.
Energy and transport interconnections, including in South Caucasus, are also among the priority areas of cooperation in the Eastern Partnership program, the EU spokesperson said.
At the last Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, leaders reaffirmed their commitment to facilitate the development of strategic infrastructure, notably in relation to the Southern Gas Corridor, said the spokesperson.
The Southern Gas Corridor is one of the priority energy projects for the EU. At the initial stage, the gas to be produced as part of the Stage 2 of development of Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field is considered as the main source for the Southern Gas Corridor projects. Other sources can also connect to this project at a later stage.
Over the past years, the Eastern Partnership program has been developed and enhanced to the benefit of both the EU and the partner countries involved, the spokesperson said. For example, citizens of the Republic of Moldova who hold a biometric passport and want to travel to the Schengen zone for a short-stay are exempt from visa requirements since April 28, 2014, according to the spokesperson.
The European Commission recently adopted progress reports on the implementation of the action plans on visa liberalisation for Georgia and Ukraine respectively, the EU spokesperson said. With Azerbaijan and Armenia, Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements allow for easier access to Schengen visas and therefore increased people-to-people contact, said the spokesperson.