Over 50 European scholars, experts and officials participated at the third edition of the Eastern Partnership Reflection Forum (EaP Reflection Forum) held in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova on 21-23 October 2019. The event was organized by the Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), in partnership with the Austro-Frech Centre for Rapprochement in Europe (Vienna) and the Analytical Center “Expert-Grup”, with the support of the Central European Initiative (CEI), Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The Forum aims strengthening the cooperation among the expert community from EU and the six EaP countries to reflect and develop policy recommendations on the future of the Eastern Partnership.
The EaP Reflection Forum started with opening remarks from Vassilis Maragos, Head of Unit for Eastern Partnership, DGNEAR, European Commission, who mentioned the special role of the thin-tanks and expert community in the process of revision and formulation of new policy objectives for the Eastern Partnership beyond 2020. Polina Ojog the Programme Coordinator of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Chisinau and Caroline Tissot the Director of the Swiss Cooperation Office in the Republic of Moldova continued with their remarks as the representatives of the key partners of the Forum.
Present at the opening ceremony, Prime minister of the Republic of Moldova, Maia Sandu, delivered a keynote address referring to the future of the Eastern Partnership from Moldova’s perspective. “The most important priority for us is that our relations with the EU, including within the Eastern Partnership, should clearly reflect our European path. Within the Eastern Partnership, the EU should offer more ambitious European perspectives for the countries which made this decision and are prepared to implement a vast program of internal reforms. Our choice is not to be in the “grey area” – a tampon area – between West and East”, stated Prime minister Maia Sandu.
The event continued with a panel discussion moderated by Florent Marciacq, Deputy Secretary, Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe (Vienna) with contributions from: Peter Balazs, Director of the Center for the European Neighbourhood Studies (CENS) from Central European University (CEU), Natalia Yerashevich, Director of the Civil Society Forum Secretariat and Benno Zogg, researcher at the Center for Security Studies of ETH Zurich. The speakers have shared their views on the main internal and external challenges, as well as opportunities for the future of the Eastern Partnership.
The discussions which took place within the opening session of the Forum from 21st of October 2019 can be viewed here.
During the second day, two working sessions were organized. The first one was dedicated to EU’s strategic policy for its Eastern partners beyond the 20 deliverables for 2020. The discussions were facilitated by Paul Ivan, Senior Policy Analyst, European Policy Centre (EPC) from Brussels and Magda Stumvoll, Austro-French Centre for Rapprochement in Europe (Vienna). The second session, which was focussed on the regional security environment, was moderated by Nona Mikhelidze, Head of the Eastern Europe and Eurasia Program at the Institute of International Affairs from Rome and Denis Cenușă, Associate Expert of the Expert Group and researcher, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen.
The event continued with a special session of the EaP Think Tank Forum, launched in 2017 in Chisinau. This session, moderated by Sinikkuka Saari, Senior Associate Analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), reviewed the main results and challenges for Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in their relations with the EU beyond 2020. The panel included introductory contributions from EU and EaP experts, namely: Vano Chkhikvadze, Director of the EU Integration Program of the Open Society Foundation from Georgia (Tbilisi), Iulian Groza, Executive Director, Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), Leo Litra, Senior Research Fellow, New Europe Centre (Kyiv) and Stanislav Secrieru, Senior Policy Analyst at the EUISS. The panellists referred in their remarks to the main findings and recommendations published in EUISS Chailoit Paper “The Eastern Partnership a Decade on: Looking back, Thinking ahead”, which can be accessed here.
The discussions have also benefited from the high-level policy contributions from the special guests of the event: Nicu Popescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration and Ambassador Peter Michalko, Head of EU Delegation in the Republic of Moldova.
During the final part of the EaP Reflection Forum, Vassilis Maragos, Head of Unit for Eastern Partnership, DGNEAR, European Commission, pointed out the main conclusions for the Forum: “This event was a good opportunity to exchange views and opinions on the Eastern Partnership. First, I would like to point out the dialogue. The role of think-tanks, civil society, as well as the engagement with citizens is essential to strengthen a shared vision of the future of the EU and the countries in the Eastern Neighbourhood. Another important element is the openness. But also, the creation of new opportunities, such as promoting business or cross-border projects that citizens should benefit first and foremost. The second point, which I would like to mention, is about differences and inclusion. We need both, because these are elements of choice and opportunities, but also the belief that we must face the challenges together. Only together we can build the future”.
More details about the discussions from the special session in the format of the EaP Think Tank Forum, but also the main conclusions of the EaP Reflection Forum can be accessed here.
The EaP Reflection Forum in Chisinau has celebrated its third edition after the last year Forum in Vienna, under the auspices of the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and first edition in Minsk (2017). The EaP Think-Tank Forum initiative was started in Chisinau in 2017, followed by the meeting in 2018 in Bucharest.