Ukraine: Visions and Prospects of Eastern Partnership Policy after 2020

Since the inception of the EaP Ukraine has taken a special position on the policy and its bilateral and multilateral tracks. While acknowledging its European aspirations and interest in the development of bilateral cooperation with the European Union, official Kyiv expressed its reluctance to the multilateral track and overall EU’s approach towards copying Ukrainian-EU bilateral negotiation framework and applying it to the other partner states.

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Since the inception of the EaP Ukraine has taken a special position on the policy and its bilateral and multilateral tracks. While acknowledging its European aspirations and interest in the development of bilateral cooperation with the European Union, official Kyiv expressed its reluctance to the multilateral track and overall EU’s approach towards copying Ukrainian-EU bilateral negotiation framework and applying it to the other partner states.


Download the full publication to read the analysis of Ukraine’s implementation of 5 key EaP policy priorities: 

1.1. Together for resilient, sustainable and integrated economies

1.2. Together for accountable institutions, the rule of law and security

1.3. Together towards environmental and climate resilience

1.4. Together for a resilient digital transformation

1.5. Together for resilient, fair and inclusive societies


Thematic Summary   of implementation of 5 key EaP priorities across the region. 

Analysis for other states: 








Current perception of the EaP policy in Ukraine

Since the inception of the EaP Ukraine has taken a special position on the policy and its bilateral and multilateral tracks. While acknowledging its European aspirations and interest in the development of bilateral cooperation with the European Union, official Kyiv expressed its reluctance to the multilateral track and overall EU’s approach towards copying Ukrainian-EU bilateral negotiation framework and applying it to the other partner states.

At the level of official communication in Ukraine, bilateral relations with EU and Eastern Partnership policy have always been positioned as two different policies with respect to the European Union. Even administering functions of the bilateral and multilateral track were largely divided between the different government bodies. All commitments under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and subsequent bilateral agreements are overseen by the Governmental Office for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, while participation of Ukraine in the multilateral EaP architecture is coordinated by the profile department of the MFA. That said, there is no surprise that Ukrainian citizens cast vast public support for the integration of Ukraine into the EU, while they are much less aware of anything related to the Eastern Partnership policy. There is a lack of opinion polls related to the policy and Ukraine.

Ukraine’s participation in the Eastern Partnership before the full-scale Russian aggression in February 2022  may be divided into three layers: bilateral cooperation, Trio initiative and multilateral mechanism for all six partners.

As mentioned above, bilateral relations with the EU have been always prioritized by theUkrainian elites. Ukraine demonstrated significant progress in deepening sectoral integration with the EU, calling for 4 Unions: customs, digital, energy and integration into the Schengen area. Integration into the EU has been declared a state course, envisaged by the norms of the Constitution of Ukraine. Politically, official Kyiv traditionally benefited from the annual EU-Ukraine Summit and a very intensive agenda of the Association bodies at the governmental, parliamentary and expert levels.

After the EaP Summit in December 2021, Ukraine became frustrated with the Trio format as this club of three partner states has not succeeded in actively influencing the EaP agenda in the run-up and during the Summit. Many joint proposals, as well as European perspective pledges, went unanswered by the EU side. Especially, Ukraine was frustrated by the arguably inadequate response from the EU side to the security related requests from the three partner states, both in terms of institutions and the substance security component of EaPwhich was very weak.

During the war of Russia against Ukraine, the Trio lost its relevance for Ukrainian authorities due to many interconnected reasons. First, the response of Moldova and particularly Georgia to the Russian aggression since 24th of February did not meet Ukrainian expectations. The Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs DmytroKuleba, as well as other members of the Government, unleashed harsh criticism towards an ambiguous position of the partner states. The tensions have been provoked by the issues of poor solidarity in sanctions against Russia. Moreover, Ukraine was concerned with Moldova’s and Georgia’s applications for candidacy status in parallel with Ukraine. Any delay in the progress of Chisinau and Tbilisi could have caused inhibition in the European integration of Kyiv. Back then, it was considered a risk for the Ukrainian pitch under special circumstances. Naturally, at that juncture, there was no real will on the Ukrainian side to act in communication with the EU in the format of three.

Second, Ukraine being now under exceptional conditions is the core beneficiary of the EU assistance. EU provides macro-financial support and military assistance, launches the Platform for the Recovery of Ukraine, delivers humanitarian help, accommodates Ukrainian war refugees etc. Such a level of the EU’s backing is accessible for Kyiv without addressing more modest EaP resources (in comparison to the current needs of Ukraine). In these areas of cooperation with the EU, the Trio format is also not needed.

A multilateral track for six partners (or five partner states, since Belarus suspended its participation) presents little added value for Ukraine. Being focused on the bilateral track, Ukraine paid less attention to participation in all multilateral initiatives of the Eastern Partnership. At the highest level, during EaP Summits, political messages in joint declarations were blurred by Russia’s friendly states, Armenia and Belarus. No strong wording or decision against Russia was adopted in that format. That is why Kyiv preferred political statements of the EU-Ukraine summits or GUAM organization to those of the EaP format.

At the same time, it must be admitted that Kyiv has always demonstrated interest in new financial instruments, which were proposed to the partner states in the framework of the Eastern Partnership policy (Horizon 2020, Creative Europe, SME, Erasmus Europe etc.). the European Investment Plan or financial resources under the Team Europe initiative, which provided new possibilities for cooperation under the new EU financial framework for 2021-2027 were of significant interest for the Ukrainian side

In the process of war, the official Kyiv is interested in potentially all EU resources, which might be allocated to war-affected areas of Ukraine to recover and rebuild a normal life. Therefore cooperation with IFIs under the EaP framework might also create a real financial vehicle for the Ukrainian government. Before Ukraine officially joins the IPA instrument, it should explore all the existing EaP programs to cover current needs.

Ukraine is still interested in the EaP policy, being aware of the fact that such a policy might be beneficial for other partner states to find resources to counterbalance Russian influence in the region of Eastern Europe and South Caucasus.

Finally, Ukraine will prioritize deep and substantial integration into the European internal market and a comprehensive cooperation agenda with the EU in all sectors. It is a natural process, bearing in mind the overwhelming support among citizens of Ukraine for joining the EU. In October 2022, opinion polls in Ukraine demonstrated over 90% of popular support for the EU’s membership in Ukraine (Rating Group agency).

Entering the accession process as a candidate country will further decrease the relevance of the multilateral EaP architecture for Ukraine.


Ukraine’s vision of the updated EaP policy

The new status of Ukraine, Moldova and, soon, Georgia in relations with the EU emphasizes the updates that the policy of the Eastern Partnership demands. This format of relations should not come into conflict with the aspirations of Kyiv, Chisinau and Tbilisi to become part of United Europe and cannot be a substitute to the membership. However, Ukraine is interested in preserving and developing this policy as a tool for establishing regional stability and guaranteeing the shared prosperity of the Eastern European countries. In this context, the Ukrainian expert community sees the following essential and promising directions for the implementation of the Eastern Partnership in the future:

At the level of relations of the entire Eastern Partnership region with the EU:

  • Strengthening of regional security cooperation. Nowadays, the topic of security unites almost all the states of the Eastern Partnership and is worrisome for the whole of Europe. The ongoing Russian aggression poses existential risks for Ukraine, daily deaths and injuries among military and civilians, humanitarian disasters, and the destruction of infrastructure. Armenia and Azerbaijan are looking for ways to permanent peace, which would guarantee the sustainable development of both countries and stability in the South Caucasus. Moldova and Georgia are still dealing with the problems associated with the presence of the Russian threat coming from their temporarily occupied territories.
    Due to the different nature of the challenges faced by the states and the peculiarities of their foreign policy orientations, it is currently impossible to find a common regional security denominator. However, the Eastern Partnership could help to set contacts and to solve problems related to soft security and the consequences of hostilities, including joint initiatives for the rehabilitation and reintegration of veterans and refugees, demining areas, restoring destroyed infrastructure, and focusing on programs and facilities that would guarantee the personal safety of citizens. Investing in developing good governance and justice mechanisms should also be a priority in creating a stable environment in the region. In addition, within the framework of the Eastern Partnership, it is possible to create a platform for finding solutions to establish a safe environment for trade and economic activity in the Wider Black Sea region. First, it is about the joint efforts of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and the EU; however, Azerbaijan and Armenia may be also interested in securing this region. Also, an effective step in improving regional security cooperation could be the more active involvement of the Eastern Partnership countries in the EU PESCO Initiative. It is necessary to outline the possible contribution and proposals of the states regarding this European policy. Each of the states of the region has its own security challenges, so it is a depository of experience in minimizing or eliminating them. In addition, it is necessary to maintain the EU’s attention to counteracting Russian hybrid threats in the countries of the Eastern Partnership. Moscow may consider individual countries of the region as a springboard for further undermining the continental security infrastructure.
  • Strengthening the resilience of the countries of the region to threats through a comprehensive deepening of regional cooperation. For years, the Eastern Partnership for many actors was primarily an instrument of interaction between the EU and individual countries of Central Europe and the South Caucasus. This created the conditions under which the participants of the policy acquired varying degrees of integration and interest in the format. Security and economic challenges require the strengthening of general regional cooperation, which, however, is often hindered by individual political contradictions between the states.
    In this sense, the Eastern Partnership can become a platform for deeper practical rather than political cooperation. Thus, the role of sectoral cooperation between the countries of the region is growing. It may include resources for researching opportunities and needs for the development of regional trade, creating new transport infrastructure and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, with a special emphasis on technological and digital projects. Further development of inter-expert, inter-scientific and people-to-people contacts in the region should contribute to the implementation of these projects.
    Also, bearing in mind the changing conditions in the European energy market and the growing need for modernization of the sphere, joint energy projects between the states of the region are becoming especially relevant. The demand for Azerbaijani energy resources is growing in the countries of Southern and, partially, Central Europe. Ukraine and Moldova are looking for opportunities of closer cooperation in the field of electricity as well. The role of renewables is increasing in all the countries of the Eastern Partnership. These and other issues may become the focus of projects supported within the framework of the reformed Eastern Partnership.
  • Creation of a separate track of cooperation and project implementation control for Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Kyiv, Chisinau and Tbilisi are currently in much more advanced positions in cooperation with the EU within the framework of the Eastern Partnership than the rest of the countries in the focus of the policy. Therefore, in matters that do not concern the deepening of regional cooperation, but concentrate on the bilateral relations of the states with the EU within the framework of the format, it is necessary to note the achievements of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia and to create a new system for evaluating the success indicators of decisions and projects and a new system for supporting and encouraging changes.
  • Establishment of a new format of relations with representatives of the civil society of Free Belarus. In the interests of the Eastern Partnership region and the entire EU, it is necessary to identify the actions of the regime that seized power in Belarus as a threat to common regional security. Countering its aggressive and treacherous policy and creating conditions for stability in Central Europe requires the active support of the civil society of Free Belarus. At the same time, it should be recognised that the implementation of EU approaches applied to the other countries of the Eastern Partnership is irrelevant in the case of Belarus. In fact, nowadays the country cannot be a contributor to the improvement of regional cooperation except at the interpersonal level.

At the level of bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and the EU within the framework of the Eastern Partnership:

  • Stable support to Ukraine during active hostilities and during the country’s recovery. While countering the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian state cannot function without stable foreign aid. The most important issues – such as support for the defense sector, the social sector and the reconstruction of critical infrastructure – are generally secured via contacts at the highest level. However, there are still less topical problems that are not adequately resourced e.g. targeted humanitarian assistance to victims of hostilities, providing internally displaced persons with job positions and income, supporting educational institutions and students who cannot fully carry out their activities due to the war, and many other issues. Overcoming these challenges, which are not part at the priority level of international aid to Ukraine, could be prioritized by the Eastern Partnership policy.
    In this regard, the fact that Ukraine proves its readiness and will to continue participating in EU programs supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, Horizon Europe, Creative Europe and others is important. These initiatives are essential for maintaining the integrity of Ukrainian society and its ability to further contribute to the development and reconstruction of Ukraine.
  • Use of Ukrainian proposals and scientific developments in joint European defense procurement. By successfully resisting Russian aggression, Ukraine proved that it is an important contributor to the security system of the whole of Europe. The involvement of Ukrainian manufacturers and developers of defence equipment and technologies in the procurement of security structures of European countries would be a logical continuation of this fact and may eventually strengthen the region’s resistance to threats and resilience. Moreover, such a step, through international cooperation and improvement of the work of the relevant industrial sector, could strengthen the defence capability of Ukraine itself in the long term.

At the level of bilateral cooperation between countries within the framework of the Eastern Partnership:

  • Implementation of infrastructure projects between the individual countries of the Eastern Partnership. There are many opportunities for the implementation of bilateral initiatives between the states of the region, which could solve their critical problems and spill over to other states of the policy. For example, strengthening the stability of Ukraine and Moldova requires the development of transport and energy infrastructure between the two countries. Since these two countries are in the more advanced positions in relations with the EU, the implementation of joint projects between them could become the first example for similar successful initiatives in other Eastern Partnership states.