“Maximum” program of the EaP Summit for Ukraine is to determine the strategic goal of developing this format

On November 9, 2021, within the framework of the Annual Conference of the Ukrainian national platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (UNP EaP CSF), a discussion “Ukraine on the eve of the Eastern Partnership Summit: achievements and challenges” was held during which government officials and civil society representatives shared their views on the future of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) and what Ukraine can expect after the EaP Summit, which will be held in December this year.

In 2020, the current cycle of the Eastern Partnership European policy (EAP) ended, which was marked by the tasks defined in the Joint Working Document “20 key achievements until 2020”. In recent years, both the EU and the EAP member states have worked on the vision of new EAP goals and objectives.

Ukraine constantly expresses its interest in deepening cooperation within the EAP in the trio format, which includes Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. These are countries that have signed association agreements with the EU and are seeking to become EU members. Cooperation with the EU in the three-country format was noted as a priority in the latest statement of the EU-Ukraine summit.

During the event, both the opinions of official representatives and the vision of civil society regarding the role of Ukraine in the Eastern Partnership, its key goals after 2020, and how the new EAP policy will solve the challenges faced by both the countries of the region and their civil society were heard. The panelists discussed the steps and challenges ahead of the 6th Eastern Partnership Summit (December 15-16, 2021), as well as the ambitions and political goals set out in the new political documents.

The event was moderated by Serhii Sydorenko, editor of Yevropeiska Pravda.

According to Vadym Halaichuk, deputy of the Verkhovna Rada, first deputy chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on integration of Ukraine with the European Union, Ukraine is actively involved in the preparation of proposals for documents that will be adopted as a result of the summit. He positively assesses progress in this direction, because most of the proposals from Ukraine were included in the joint working document “Restoration, sustainability and reforms: priorities of the Eastern Partnership after 2020”, on the basis of which the declaration will be adopted at the summit. But, Vadym Halaichuk notes, the wishes were not fully taken into account: “Most of the wishes that Ukraine had were taken into account. There is a significant progress, but this is not all that we would like to see. Let’s hope that with the help of the summit and closer contacts with our neighbors, our wishes will be taken into account.”

The joint working document takes into account most of the proposals of the Government of Ukraine on trade and economic integration, but there is no clear activation regarding the signing of an industrial visa-free regime, while there is progress on the issue of tariff quotas, Vadym Halaichuk said. Ukraine also counts on the support of enterprises, the development of transport links, where special attention is paid to the Black Sea, Air Space Safety, Road development, as well as attracting EaP countries to the Green course.

Given that the summit was postponed several times, the countries of the Associated trio had enough time to coordinate their positions and make joint proposals on various issues in the context of preparing the event, Maryna Mykhailenko said, director of the EU and NATO Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. This is about practical and strategic aspects of the future EAP initiative. Of course, providing a European perspective to the trio countries would be a “maximum” task. At the same time, it is more likely to confirm the EU’s recognition of European aspirations and the European choice of the Associated trio countries.

“The EU working document takes into account many wishes of the Ukrainian side. At the same time, this document is very practical. There is no strategic goal for the development of EAP — this is not enough for the trio countries in this initiative,” Maryna said.

Viktor Steblynenko, Head of the Expert Group on Justice and Social and Humanitarian Issues of the Government Office for Coordination of European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of the Secretariat of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, also supported the importance of having a strategy for the development of this format.

“The EU, of course, must demonstrate greater openness for the EaP countries, namely for countries that really strive for a European perspective — Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. We expect that this year’s summit will recognize the strategic opportunity to strengthen the EAP based on the principle of differentiation and the European aspirations of partners,” Steblynenko said.

In addition, according to him, support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine and condemnation of Russian aggression, security and defense cooperation and integration into the EU market remain equally important issues for Ukraine.

Serhii Herasymchuk, a member of the board of the Ukrainian prism Foreign Policy Council, does not share the optimism of the authorities. According to the expert the document “Recovery, sustainability and reforms: priorities of the Eastern Partnership after 2020” is not as ambitious as hoped in the countries of the Associated trio.

“As we can see from these documents and from the EU’s behavior, in fact, one of the neighborhood policy tools is being cemented, which does not contain strategic goals,” Serhii Herasymchuk said.

He outlined three possible scenarios for Ukraine in the context of the Eastern Partnership: the first is the EU’s consent to support the Associated trio; the second is Ukraine’s refusal to participate in the EAP and focus on the implementation of the association agreement; the third scenario, which is the most optimal, is Ukraine remains in the EAP, but requires differentiation for the trio.

According to Serhii Herasymchuk, now Ukraine needs to focus on cooperation with the trio countries and promote cooperation between civil society both within the trio and in the EU-trio format.

Ruslan Havryliuk, coordinator of Working group 3 UNP and Working group 3 EaP CSF, All-Ukrainian public organization “National Ecological Center of Ukraine” (NECU), noted that one should not focus on the Eastern Partnership. Ukraine should take the European Union policy as a model. “We need to take into account that environmental and climate change issues should be key, cornerstones in our policy. And then it will be easier for us to communicate on various issues with European structures,” Ruslan Havryliuk said.

Ivan Kulchytskyi, coordinator of Working group 4 of UNP, Public organization “Agency for European innovations”, drew attention to how to combine the global dialogue with specific sectoral politicians. It is important to feel the opportunities and potential, so that the EU’s assistance tools work not only from the point of view of policies, but also from the point of view of attracting investment or implementation resources. “This means financing research centers and sustainable facilities,” Ivan Kulchytskyi said.

Yuriy Vdovenko, National Coordinator of the UNP EaP CSF, Center for cross-border cooperation, believes that representatives of civil society are on the same side as representatives of the authorities. He “is not a supporter of the black-and-white approach,” but noted that civil society hoped that after long joint consultations, more ambitious goals would be announced by the European Commission regarding the EAP. Yurii Vdovenko noted that the role of the UNP EaP CSF is to help Ukraine move to the European Union. He thanked the partners from the authorities for participating in the discussion within the framework of the annual UNP conference, who expressed their position, which is common to the position of civil society.

Yurii Vdovenko drew attention to the fact that the conference participants are those people who implement various initiatives in the EAP, create the positive that we can talk about.

The National Coordinator believes that the Eastern Partnership is not about homework for Ukraine, it is more about opportunities for Ukraine to develop various sectors and get closer to the European Union.

Yurii Vdovenko noted that today the priority issue for civil society and authorities is that the EaP Summit in December should be used as much as possible to ensure that Ukraine’s positions are heard and taken into account. So that the summit becomes a starting point that would allow to transform politics. Civil society uses its communication capabilities to communicate its position on various platforms.

The head of the UNP called on the European Union to note that the external environment is changing, and the format of the Eastern Partnership should also change.

“Scale down this cliff” Yurii Vdovenko summed up.

A video recording of the discussion is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKgUgsM6mng

UNP Annual Conference Program, 9-10.11. 2021

The event was held within the framework of the project “Support for the activities of UNP EaP CSF in 2021-2023”, funded by the European Union, the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum and implemented by the Institute for Economic Research and Policy Consultations.