Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic

   česky      english     

Advanced search

Skip to menu

Article notification Print Decrease font size Increase font size

The Eastern Partnership


The Eastern Partnership (EaP) – the policy of the European Union towards six countries of Eastern Europe and Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus – currently not participating on the government level – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) – is one of the long term priorities of the foreign policy of Czechia, both on the EU and the bilateral level.

In 2022, the renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine brought about fundamental change of the Eastern policy of the EU, including EU membership perspective for Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. At the same time, the Eastern Partnership remains an important format for regional cooperation and support to reforms. Furthermore, the EaP continues to help to bring interested partners closer to the EU.

Establishment of robust policy vis-a-vis the Eastern neighbors of the EU was among the priorities of the first Czech Presidency in the Council of the EU in 2009. This is why the founding summit of the EaP took place on May 7, 2009, in Prague.

The key aim of the Eastern Partnership is to create conditions for deepened political association and further economic integration between the EU and the partner states. Formally, the EaP is the Eastern dimension of the European Neighborhood Policy which includes both Southern and Eastern dimension. The EaP is a policy of the EU, not an international organization with own structures. The EaP is built on the principle of “joint ownership” which means that the EU involves partners in its planning and implementation as much as possible. The Eastern Partnership consists of the bilateral and multilateral dimensions.

Bilateral Dimension

Within the bilateral dimension, the EU concluded the Association Agreements, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA) with Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, in 2014. The Association Agreements – legally in force from 2016/2017 – not only offer deepened political and sectoral dialogue, but also the legally binding commitment of the partner countries to work on domestic reforms and alignment with the European “acquis”. The cooperation in the field of foreign and security policy is strengthened as well. The DCFTAs removed most of the barriers in mutual trade.

On 1 March 2021, the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the EU and Armenia entered into force. This Agreement provides a framework for the EU and Armenia to work together in a wide range of areas: strengthening democracy, the rule of law and human rights; creating more jobs and business opportunities, improving legislation, public safety, a cleaner environment, as well as better education and opportunities for research. However, it does not provide for free trade zone with the EU.

In 2016, the EU Council adopted a mandate to negotiate a comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan. The new agreement should replace the 1996 partnership and cooperation agreement. As of 28 June 2021, Belarus has suspended its participation in the Eastern Partnership. Thus, the negotiations on informal memorandum on EU-Belarus Partnership Priorities – that began in 2016 – have been stopped.

Progress has also been made in the field of mobility/visa policy, namely through the negotiations on the visa facilitation and readmission agreements or through the dialogue on visa liberalization (steps towards the visa free regime). This dialogue led to the visa free regime with the EU for holders of biometric passports from Moldova in 2014, Ukraine and Georgia in 2017.

Armenia and Azerbaijan benefit from the Visa Facilitation Agreements with the EU that simplifies the visa procedures. EU-Belarus Visa Facilitation Agreement came into force in 2020 but was suspended by Minsk in 2021. In light of the Lukashenko regime's attempts to facilitate irregular migration to the EU, the EU also decided to partially suspend the agreement (with regard to state officials).

Multilateral Dimension

Multilateral dimension of the EaP includes the following formats:

  1. Summit (biennial);
  2. Ministerial Meeting of Foreign Ministers (annual);
  3. Ministerial Meetings of Other Ministers (as appropriate);
  4. Senior Officials Meeting (twice a year);

In the future, the Strategic Conferences (on investment and European values) should replace the previous four EaP Multilateral Platforms. The multilateral architecture, and the EaP policy as such, is currently subject to debates given the changed geopolitical landscape following the renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2022. The Russian wars brought significant impact especially with regard to the Associated Trio (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia).

The Summits decide on general directions of the EaP policy. The founding Summit took place in Prague in 2009, followed by summits in Warsaw in 2011, Vilnius in 2013, Riga in 2015, and Brussels in 2017 and 2021. In 2020 a video conference of Heads of States/Governments was held due to covid-19 pandemics.

Apart from the intergovernmental level, the parliamentary dimension of the Eastern Partnership is provided by the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly that includes members of the European Parliament together with all EaP countries but Belarus. Conference of the Regional and Local Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) provides a framework for cooperation between the municipalities.

The Civil Society Forum (CSF) enables involvement of non-governmental organizations, think-tanks, foundations, trade unions and employers´ associations within this policy. Since the cooperation with and support to the civil society is one of the priorities of the Czech foreign policy, a conference “Eastern Partnership: Towards Civil Society Forum” was held at the premises of the Foreign Ministry in Prague in May 2009. This event paved the way to the creation of the Civil Society Forum of the EaP.

Key Milestones

The Eastern Partnership Summit in Prague on May 7, 2009, established the EaP by adopting the joint Prague Declaration of the Eastern Partnership, negotiated by the Czech EU Presidency in line with the mandate articulated by the European Council Conclusions from March 2009. The key outcome of the Vilnius summit was the initialing of the Association Agreements and DCFTAs with Moldova and Georgia.

The first six years since the founding Prague EaP Summit in May 2009 can be described as a period of vision, political visibility and development of most partner countries' relations with the EU, culminating in the conclusion of Association Agreements with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine or a visa liberalization agreement with Moldova in 2014. The Russian aggression against Ukraine led to changes in the EU policy towards Russia, including sanctions, and highlighted the need for more robust and active policy towards the Eastern partners of the EU.

Since 2015, in addition to the ongoing negotiations on a new type of framework agreements with Armenia and Azerbaijan and visa agreements, the Eastern Partnership has focused on the implementation of the agreements already concluded and on the practical side of the relationship with a direct impact on the lives of the population, i.e. on less politically visible issues.

Since the November 2017 EaP Summit in Brussels, considerable emphasis has been placed on strengthening the resilience of partner countries, and this aspect remains one of the pillars of EU cooperation with EaP countries and became even more relevant in the context of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Since 2020, the covid-19 pandemic and adverse developments in some countries in the Eastern European region have made EaP cooperation more difficult.

The fraudulent presidential elections in Belarus in August 2020 and the violent crackdown on demonstrations led to a deterioration in relations with the country, which suspended its governmental cooperation with the EU within the Eastern Partnership in June 2021. However, the EU continues to engage with Belarusian civil society and independent media in the framework of the Eastern Partnership. Developments in the region have also been significantly affected by the outbreak of the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in autumn 2020.

In response to these events, which have further highlighted the internal differentiation of geopolitical priorities among the Eastern Partnership countries, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine created the so-called Associated Trio as a cooperation format aimed at further deepening relations with the EU by signing a memorandum at the level of Foreign Ministers in May 2021. The participating countries of the "Trio" have expressed aspirations for EU membership and reaffirmed their commitment to continue implementing the Association Agreements, with the understanding that these do not represent the ultimate goal of their relations with the EU. This development has increased pressure for greater differentiation within the Eastern Partnership policy.

A major impetus for a further shift in the EU's Eastern policy was the renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine in February 2022. In addition to unprecedented and complex support for Ukraine and Moldova, in June 2022 the EU granted all three countries of the so-called Associated Trio a European perspective, granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova. Once these countries meet the conditions set out in the European Commission's Opinion on their membership application, the EU Council will decide on the next steps. The EU is ready to grant candidate status to Georgia once the priorities set out in the European Commission's Opinion on its membership application have been addressed.

Thanks to the efforts of Czechia, among others, the countries of the Associated Trio for the first time featured in the regular annual Council conclusions on enlargement in December 2022. On this occasion, the Council also acknowledged the considerable efforts that Ukraine has made, under very difficult circumstances, to meet the objectives on which its candidate status is based. The Council also recognized the progress made in the reform process. The Council also invited the Commission to develop a roadmap outlining further steps to facilitate Ukraine's access to the EU single market.

Similarly, the Council commended Moldova for its considerable efforts in meeting the objectives underlying its candidate status and encouraged it to continue with reforms. The Council underlined the need to further deepen sectoral integration and to further integrate Moldova into the EU single market.

Results of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels, December 15, 2021

The sixth Eastern Partnership Summit, held in Brussels on the 15th of December, 2021, can be described as a success. It was the first full-fledged EaP summit after a four-year hiatus, which, despite complex negotiations prior to the summit (in which Czechia, together with like-minded Member States, played an active role) and despite fears of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, resulted in the adoption of a joint political declaration, which is of symbolic value. Another outcome of the Summit is a program of cooperation with Partner States until 2025.

Czechia appreciates that the Summit Declaration emphasizes strengthening the resilience of the Partners. We also welcomed the language on European aspirations and the European choice of partner countries; the same goes for the explicit recognition of the existence of the so-called Associated Trio (Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine). However, this positive momentum has been significantly overcome in 2022 by the dynamics of development in response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine, i.e. the granting of a European perspective to the countries of the Associated Trio and the granting of candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova.

The agenda for cooperation with partner countries until 2025 is embodied in the document "Recovery, resilience and reform: post 2020 Eastern Partnership priorities", whose main theme is strengthening the resilience of partner countries. The document also includes an Economic and Investment Plan for the EaP countries, under which the EU is ready to generate up to €17 billion of investment, with the plan being tailored to the specific needs of each partner country. In the case of Belarus, implementation of the plan is conditional on the country's transition to democracy.

On the sidelines of the summit, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, managed to organize direct talks between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, the course and results of which were highly appreciated by both. This is of significance not only for the partner countries concerned, but also for revealing the EU's potential to act as a welcome impartial mediator in conflict management in its neighborhood.

The 'empty chair policy' for Belarusian official representatives and the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers with representatives of the Belarusian opposition three days before the summit were another important symbols.

Czechia and the Eastern Partnership

The Czech foreign policy was dealing with a concept corresponding to today's Eastern Partnership long before the start of the first Czech Presidency of the EU Council in 2009. The concept of a coherent Eastern policy was absent in the EU and the launch of the Eastern Partnership project represented a historic and strategic step towards the EU's engagement with its Eastern neighbors.

The second Czech presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2022 had the Eastern Partnership as one of its priorities, setting the following priorities in response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine:

  • full support for Ukraine;
  • implementation of the candidate status of Ukraine and Moldova, while Georgia should remain part of the process;
  • efforts to open up access to the EU internal market for the countries of the Associated Trio;
  • strengthening the resilience of and economic cooperation with all partner countries;
  • opening a debate on the removal of telecommunications barriers with all partner countries;
  • launching a reflection on the future of the EaP.

The importance that the Czech Presidency of the EU Council has attached to the VP policy is also illustrated by the large number of events organized:

  • 4th Eastern Partnership Youth Conference (Prague, 11-13 July 2022);
  • Attendance of the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia at the "gymnich", an informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers (30-31 August);
  • Forum for Ukraine within the Forum 2000 Conference (Prague, 31 August-2 September);
  • Conference on Geoparks (Příbram, 4 September),;
  • Conference "Curbing pollution for and with citizens" (Cyprus, 4-7 October);
  • Digital Partnership for Cybersecurity and Resilience in Regions (Telč, 5-7 October),;
  • EU Presidency Press Trip for journalists from Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia (Prague, 9-13 October);
  • Conference on Security and Resilience (Prague, 11 October);
  • Business and Investment Forum (Prague, 17-18 October);
  • Opening Conference of the University Cluster of EU and EaP Universities, organized by Charles University (Prague, 19 October),;
  • CORLEAP meeting – resilience of local governments (2-4 November),;
  • Eastern Partnership Media Conference (Prague, 1-2 December),;
  • Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum Annual Assembly (Prague, 5-7 December),;
  • EaP Ministerial Meeting and the working breakfast of EU Foreign Ministers on the future of the EaP (on the sidelines of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, 12 December).

Since its inception, Czechia has consistently supported the implementation and development of the Eastern Partnership and actively participates in debates on the Eastern Partnership at EU level. In the preparation of the EaP summits, Czechia, together with like-minded countries, takes the initiative to prepare non-papers dealing with a number of aspects of cooperation between the EaP countries and the EU.

In 2020, Czech diplomacy significantly contributed to the formulation of a joint communication by the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the content of which was reflected in the conclusions of the December 2020 European Council. Strengthening the resilience of EaP countries and their institutions in areas important for their internal development and their relations with the EU was again emphasised as one of the guiding principles of EU policy towards the EaP countries.

In addition to Czech interests and the expertise of Czech diplomacy, civil society and companies, the active involvement of Czechia in the Eastern Partnership region is also based on the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has established diplomatic missions in all Eastern Partnership countries. The MFA also maintains an active dialogue on the development of the EaP with the expert community and regularly convenes inter-ministerial coordination meetings on the EaP. The MFA also maintains an active dialogue with Czech NGO partners active in the region.

Czechia is also very active in supporting the civil society in the Eastern Partnership countries, including financial support by the MFA. Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pays considerable attention to strategic communications and resilience against disinformation, including support for independent media in the EaP countries. At the same time, Moldova and Georgia are among the priority countries for development, not mentioning special partnership with Ukraine. In January 2023, Tomáš Kopečný was appointed Government Envoy for Reconstruction of Ukraine.

Czechia has also initiated an increase of resources of the International Visegrád Fund with regard to projects in the EaP countries. Subsequently, a special grant program for the Eastern Partnership, Visegrád+, was established. Czech diplomacy actively participated in the preparation and conduct of annual meetings of V4 and partner countries' foreign ministers. The last meeting of V4 and Eastern Partnership foreign ministers took place in April 2021.

Last but not least, Czechia has been a leader state in the area of local government reform in the Eastern Partnership Panel on Good Governance and Public Administration Reform. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has regularly organized seminars for local governance experts from Eastern Partnership countries, most recently in cooperation with Estonia.

Within the Czech Foreign Ministry, the Department of Eastern Europe together with the Special Envoy for the Eastern Partnership are in charge of the Eastern Partnership.