A Joint Staff Working Document “20 deliverables for 2020” has become yet another attempt to specify the vectors for the EaP development, which would be based upon real progress in reforms and democratic transformations in partner states with the support of the EU. In fact, the entire action plan for the upcoming years provides the understanding of tangible results expected from the cooperation. So what framework has been set for the Eastern Partnership policy?
A set of tools to suit any taste
The Joint Staff Working Document on “Eastern Partnership – 20 deliverables for 2020: focusing on key priorities and tangible results” was drafted in the EU in December 2016, updated in June 2017 and adopted in December 2017 at the fifth Eastern Partnership Summit. Its features include focusing on four priorities proclaimed in the Declaration of Riga Eastern Partnership Summit. This indicates the European institutions’ efforts to ensure the continuity of the EaP strategic directions while deepening and specifying the forms of assistance and, accordingly, expectations.
The document does not take into account the discrepancy between progress and aspirations of the states regarding European integration
The Joint Working Document is aimed at developing mostly multilateral cooperation. However, its guidelines are addressed to the specific countries or their groups in different combinations depending on the goals. Implementing these goals is intended to facilitate the approximation of the Eastern Partnership countries to the European Union in the sectoral dimension, and, in some cases, it should also improve the relations between the countries in the region. In terms of its contents, the document does not take into account the discrepancy between progress and aspirations of the states regarding European integration, and as a result, repulses the interests of the Association Agreement signatory countries in deeper EU integration. Essentially, this is a set of tools, and states are able to choose those that are most interesting for them. The document is focused on solving specific issues, not connected by systematic influence on domestic transformations within the countries.
No contradictions with the Association Agreement
As for Ukraine, its unconditional priority is developing bilateral relations, while the Eastern Partnership remains a forum for multilateral dialogue on reforms and collaboration with the EU and partner states. The Eastern Partnership is based on the main developments, which by the time of its foundation have already been achieved by Ukraine in its relations with the European Union. Therefore, Ukrainian authorities perceive this policy not as a basic one, but rather as an addition to a more ambitious bilateral format of relations, the basis for which lies in implementing the Association Agreement (AA).
The Joint Working Document does not contain provisions which contradict the Association Agreement, in fact, creating a correlative mix regarding all points of the joint goals. Only some goals duplicate the Agreement provisions, namely, specific deliverables mentioned in the following chapters:
- Regulatory environment and Small and medium enterprises development;
- Harmonization of digital markets;
- Trade and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement implementation;
- Implementation of public administration reform;
In most cases, the goals supplement and clarify the Association Agreement provisions. Such goals can be found in intersectoral cross-cutting chapters Structured engagement with civil society and Gender equality and non-discrimination, as well as in the chapters:
- – Regulatory environment and Small and medium enterprises development;
- – Implementation of public administration reform;
- – Environment and adaptation to climate change;
- – Visa liberalization dialogs and mobility partnership;
- – Young people’s skills, entrepreneurship, and employability;
- – Skills development and culture;
- Research and innovation.
Key areas for Ukraine
Security remains the key issue for Ukraine. The deliverables, specified in the Joint Working Document, are mostly detailed provisions given in the Association Agreement. While the Association Agreement defined more generalized objectives, the Joint Working Document provides more details as for the overall goal. It represents one of the key elements of the AA – counteracting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, materials they are made of and means of their delivery. It also takes into account the main principles of the Association Agreement: fighting different forms of transnational organized crime. Yet, the Working Document, contrary to the Association Agreement, does not specify combating terrorism and illegal migration as a separate direction for cooperation.
As for Ukraine, its unconditional priority is developing bilateral relations, while the Eastern Partnership remains a forum for multilateral dialogue
As for the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Zone, the interim results and final objectives of the Working Document are rather the results of implementing the Association Agreement and carry no significant added value. The promising direction of harmonizing digital markets is built on the goals, mentioned in the Amendment to Chapter 14 of the Association Agreement, Digital Society. It creates pre-conditions for Ukraine to deepen its cooperation and convergence with the European Union in this sphere. Supporting small and medium-sized enterprises is made possible by creating and developing an umbrella platform EU4Business, which summarizes European programs of entrepreneurial assistance and offers new opportunities to partner states.
Most objectives (both for 2017 and for 2020) of the Public administration reform chapter are not directly mentioned in the Association Agreement. In general, the goals of the chapter specify Ukraine’s obligations within the context of Association Agreement provisions. In particular, approving the strategy of state administration according to the “principles of state administration”, depoliticizing state service, providing better access to information and better functioning of e-government system, with more economic transparency and accountability.
Added value of the Document
The main interest lies in those goals which are additional in relation to the Association Agreement since it is exactly them that make up the added value for Ukraine. Additional goals can be found in all intersectoral chapters, while chapter “Strategic Communication, pluralism and media independence” concentrates solely on new goals. Attention is drawn to the chapters, which completely consist of new objectives compared to the Association Agreement:
- Limited access to finance and financial infrastructure;
- New job opportunities at the local and regional level;
- Implementation of key judicial reforms;
- Extension of TEN-T core networks;
- Eastern Partnership European school.
The economic and infrastructural parts of the Joint Working Document correspond conceptually to the Association Agreement, however, offering some solutions in certain sectoral tasks. For Ukraine, such an example can be found in goals regarding creating efficient loan registers, developing strategies of smart specialization, launching business-oriented farm groups, clearing obstacles in logistics chains and developing domestic water routes.
The main interest lies in those goals which are additional in relation to the Association Agreement since it is exactly them that make up the added value for Ukraine
In their turn, results and aims regarding the implementation of key judicial reforms detail the provisions of Article 14 of the AA but do not cover exhaustively all the declared tasks of this article.
Transformation for the sake of stability?
The Document defining 20 deliverables for 2020 signifies that the European Union still has aspirations to provide stability both within the community and at its perimeter. The desire to reach such stability using usual tools is the core motive behind all decisions and actions, which is reflected in the fundamental provisions of European Neighborhood Policy. However, the current situation in the EU and EaP countries proves that the desired effect has not been achieved within the time of policy functioning. Therefore, there is a need to develop and implement a set of drastic measures to transform the European Union, EaP partner states and the basics of their interaction which will deepen every year. So at this stage of Eastern Partnership existence, it is necessary to monitor and evaluate the achievement of priorities set in the Joint Working Document in order to provide a foundation for necessary transformations after 2020.
The Digest will provide such evaluation for Ukraine, analyzing the progress made by Kyiv on the way to specific deliverables within the framework of the Joint Working Document, the success and difficulties of its implementation. Consequently, the other countries in the region will be able to use Ukrainian experience in order to implement the set of tools offered by the European Union.