Preparing the Eastern Partnership Summit

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Preparing the Eastern Partnership Summit

The fourth Eastern Partnership summit will be held in Riga, Latvia, on 21st- 22nd May 2015. It will bring together heads of state or government from the 28 EU member states with those of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. 

The Riga summit will be chaired by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk who, together with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, will represent the EU. 

The Eastern Partnership was launched in 2009, as a joint initiative between the European Union (EU) and the six Eastern European and South Caucasus partner countries. 

All together, the Eastern Partners’ surface area is just over 1 million km² (a quarter of that of the EU) and their population amounted in 2014 to 75.2 million (compared with 506.8 million in the EU). Ukraine is the largest Eastern Partner, with an area approximately that of France, the largest EU Member State and a population roughly equivalent to that of Spain, standing at just over 45 million. In each Eastern Partner country, the population was on average younger than in the EU, with a median age ranging from 29.7 years in Azerbaijan to 39.7 years in Ukraine, compared with 42.2 years in the EU. 

The summit will be hosted by the Prime Minister of Latvia, Laimdota Straujuma. The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, the Commissioner Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn and the Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, will also attend. 

The six partner countries will be represented by the Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili of Georgia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti and a representative of Belarus, to be confirmed. 

Standing on average at €3 700, the GDP per capita of the Eastern Partners represented 14% of that of the EU, the lowest being recorded in Moldova (€1 700) and the highest in Azerbaijan (€6 000, nearly that of Bulgaria). Across the Eastern Partner countries, the employment rate of the population aged 20 to 64 varied considerably but was consistently lower than in the EU (69.2%), except in Azerbaijan where it was 73.0%. 

The Riga summit will provide the leaders with an opportunity to reconfirm the high importance they attach to the Eastern Partnership, allowing them to review developments since the Vilnius summit in November 2013 and discuss ways of strengthening bilateral, multilateral and sectorial cooperation. It shall also be an occasion to reflect on the ongoing review of the European Neighbourhood Policy. 

After a significant decrease in 2009 following the financial crisis, the value of EU exports of goods to the Eastern Partners recovered until 2013 to reach a peak of €41.3 bn and then fell again in 2014 to €33.1 bn. Imports also recovered after 2009 and then decreased continuously to €32.4 bn in 2014. 

As a result, EU trade with the Eastern Partners was almost in balance in 2014 (+€0.6 bn). In 2014, the six Eastern Partners accounted together for nearly 2% of total extra-EU trade in goods, almost equivalent to Saudi Arabia, the EU’s 11th most important trading partner. 

Among the Eastern Partner countries, Ukraine was both the leading destination for EU exports and the leading source of EU imports from the Eastern Partners in 2014. Where Azerbaijan accounted for 84% of EU energy imports from the Eastern Partnership countries, leading to a trade deficit of -€9.7 bn for the EU, Belarus and Ukraine recorded the largest EU surpluses. 

EU exports are led by manufactured goods, which accounted for more than three-quarters of total exports; conversely while EU imports were dominated by primary goods, representing around 70% of total EU imports from these countries, Germany and Poland were – by far – the largest exporters, followed by Italy, Lithuania and Hungary. Compared with 2004, exports to the Eastern Partners increased in 2014 in all EU Member States, except Sweden. At EU level, the value of exports of goods to the Eastern Partners has doubled over the last ten years. 

Compared with 2004, EU imports of goods from the Eastern Partners increased by around 140% in 2014, having Italy as the largest importer, well ahead of Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, France and Spain. Sixteen EU Member States recorded a surplus in trade with the Eastern Partner countries in 2014, with Poland and Germany continuing to have the largest surpluses. The largest deficit in 2014 was observed by far in Italy (-€5.4 bn), followed by Spain (-€1.4 bn) and the Czech Republic (-€1.1 bn). Interestingly enough, the main EU28 import from Armenia and Georgia was copper, while 51% of Denmark’s imports from Azerbaijan in 2014 were beauty products. Likewise, the main import from Moldova to Denmark (66% of total imports), France (62%), Sweden (47%) and Slovenia (39%) was walnuts, while the main export of Austria to Azerbaijan was water! 

The summit will start on Thursday 21st May with a working dinner hosted by the President of Latvia for the heads of state or government at the Blackheads’s House, with the official welcome of the leaders on Friday 22nd May, at 09.00 at the National Library. Two side events will also take place in conjunction with the summit, a Civil Society Conference and a Business Forum. 

Filippo Giuffrida Répaci

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