On June 18, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković i participated in the Summit of the European Union and six Eastern Partnership countries. The meeting, in the form of a video conference, was held at the instigation of Croatia as another dialogue at the highest level within the Croatian presidency of the EU Council.
Three topics were discussed. The first one is COVID-19, and the consequences of the crisis. The second one is the strategic partnership, and the third one is the future of our partnership.
About COVID-19: we have demonstrated our solidarity. Very quickly, the European Union reacted by providing support and means for our partners in the region. One billion euros has been mobilised in order to support those countries in the region. EU has also provided medical equipment like gloves, masks and respirators.
To help the Eastern Partnership countries mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union has mobilized funds under a financial package of up to € 2.5 billion, including macro-financial assistance.
About the strategic partnership: the strong European support clearly shows the importance the EU gives to the Eastern Partnership. Leaders expressed the political will to continue building an area of shared democracy, prosperity and stability, anchored in our shared values, through a rules-based international order and international law. The Eastern Partnership is a foreign policy priority for the European Union, and it will continue to be one, along with our European priorities of democracy, human rights, rule of law, gender equality, structural reforms and fighting disinformation.
Over the last decade, our cooperation has flourished. Trade between the EU and its six partners has doubled. Together, the Eastern Partnership countries are now the EU's 10th largest trading partner. The EU is the number one trading partner for four Eastern Partnership countries and the second trading partner for the other two.
The association agreements with Ukraine, Georgia and Republic of Moldova provide for accelerating the political association and economic integration with the EU. Millions of these countries' citizens have benefitted from short-term visa-free travel to the EU. The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with Armenia is being provisionally applied. Negotiations on a new comprehensive agreement with Azerbaijan are at an advanced stage. And the visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Belarus will enter into force on 1st July,
"Croatia supports the further development of the EU's relations with the Eastern Partnership countries with strong support for the European ambitions of those countries wishing to move closer to the European Union. Consistent respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each Eastern Partnership country and peaceful settlement of disputes is important on that path, especially in the context of a series of frozen conflicts,
Andrej Plenković, Croatian Prime Minister
The third topic is the preparation of the physical summit that will be organised in Brussels in March 2021. We have identified five priorities, five important topics that we will tackle together in order to be well prepared and in order to adopt next year a joint declaration.