The Eastern Partnership is a joint policy initiative to enhance relations with the six Eastern neighbours Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, including in the field of migration and home affairs.
The overall framework guiding these relations is provided by the relevant bilateral agreements, such as the Association or Cooperation Agreements. Formal dialogue takes place through Eastern Partnership Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial meetings, Association and Cooperation Councils and Association and Cooperation Committees. The Subcommittee on Justice, Freedom and Security (in all the 6 countries except Belarus) is the forum for expert discussions in the migration and home affairs area. Mobility Partnerships (MP), signed with all Eastern Partners except Ukraine, complement the existing framework for bilateral cooperation in the areas of mobility, migration and asylum issues. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus have Visa Facilitation Agreements with the EU and Readmission Agreementsare in place with all our Partners.
The EU has conducted ‘Visa Liberalisation Dialogues’ with three Eastern Partnership countries, a process that led to the visa free regime with Moldova (2014), Ukraine and Georgia (2017). During this process, defined in the corresponding Visa Liberalisation Action Plans (VLAPs) and following the endorsement of EU Member States in the Council, these Eastern Partners committed to a complex set of reforms to address migration and security risks. This process continues to be monitored by the Commission in the Visa Suspension Mechanism reports (the Third Visa Suspension Mechanism Report was published on 10 July 2020).
At regional level, the 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit set out a number of objectives to guide reforms in the region, the 20 deliverables for 2020, including “strengthening the rule of law and anti-corruption mechanisms” (Deliverable 9); “stronger cooperation in the area of security” (Deliverable 12) and “visa liberalisation dialogues and Mobility Partnerships” (Deliverable 17). Progress in these deliverables is monitored through multilateral meetings of Eastern Partnership Panels and Platforms.
Following the Joint Communication on the Eastern Partnership policy beyond 2020 adopted on 18 March 2020, EU Institutions are engaged with Member States and Eastern Partners in a reflection process to define a new set of Deliverables post 2020, which will be endorsed at the next Eastern Partnership Summit in 2021.
The EU Prague summit of 2009 established four thematic platforms to support open and free discussions on topics relevant to the Eastern Partnership. Various panels were created under these platforms. The 2017 Summit revised the architecture of the multilateral track of the Eastern Partnership.
DG Migration and Home Affairs activities are concerned by two of these panels, established under the first platform that deals with Strengthening Institutions and good governance, and the fourth platform that deals with mobility and people-to-people contacts:
Eastern Partnership Panel on Rule of Law (under Platform 1)
The Panel was created in 2016 by merging two former panels, the Eastern Partnership Panel on the Fight Against Corruption, created in 2009 and the Panel on Improved Functioning of the Judiciary.
The Panel facilitates multilateral dialogue and serves to stimulate the process of reforms and achieve results in partner countries in areas related to rule of law, such as anti-corruption, including high-level and high-damage corruption, the justice sector and judiciary reform, anti-money-laundering and the countering of the financing of terrorism, asset confiscation, asset recovery and asset management, the prevention and fight against serious organised crime, including amongst others cybercrime and small firearms trafficking, and improving law enforcement cooperation. Furthermore, the Panel promotes adherence to international standards, in particular those formulated in relevant Council of Europe and United Nations conventions, and the deployment of best European practice. In principle the Panel meets twice a year, rotating between Brussels, EU Member States and partner countries and seeks a balance in discussing different aspects.
Partnership Panel on Migration, Mobility and Integrated Border Management Panel (under Platform 4)
The Eastern Partnership Panel on Migration, Mobility and Integrated Border Management (IBM) was created in 2017 by merging two panels established in 2010, the Eastern Partnership Panel on Integrated Border Management and the Eastern Partnership Asylum and Migration Panel. The Panel is supported and steered by a network of National Focal Points. IOM and DG HOME perform Eastern Partnership Panel on Migration support function
The Panel contributes to the implementation of deliverable 17 of the EaP, mobility and people-to-people contacts, in particular by discussing visa policy, but also by following up on the implementation of the Mobility Partnerships as well as Integrated Border Management. Its work focuses on: continuing the exchanges with partners on issues related to the key aspects of migration, organising and facilitating legal migration, including visa policy; preventing and reducing irregular migration and trafficking in human beings, including integrated border management, return and readmission; promoting international protection; maximising the development impact of migration and mobility and balancing trade facilitation with trade security in border crossing points.
The Prague Processis a targeted migration dialogue and a policy process promoting migration partnerships among the 50 countries of the European Union, Schengen Area, Eastern Partnership, Western Balkans, Central Asia, Russia and Turkey.
The Process originates from the EU financed project “Building Migration Partnerships”, and was initiated during the Czech EU Presidency at the 1st Prague Process Ministerial Conference with the signature of the Prague Process Joint Declaration in April 2009. In the Joint Declaration, serving as a common political framework, the participating states agreed to strengthen co-operation in migration management, to explore and develop agreed principles and elements for close migration partnerships between their countries, following a comprehensive, balanced, pragmatic and operational approach, and respecting the rights and human dignity of migrants and their family members, as well as of refugees.