Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2009

Eastern Partnership and Conflicts in the South Caucasus: Old Wine in New Skins?

Nona Mikhelidze

August 2009

Istituto Affari Internazionali


On 7 May 2009 in Prague the European Union inaugurated its Eastern Partnership (EaP). The initiative is based on a Polish-Swedish proposal of May 2008, which was held in standby until 2009. It took a full-blown war for the EU to pull this proposal out of the closet, as the August 2008 Georgian-Russian conflict and the ensuing Russian recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia posed new challenges to European foreign policy. The EaP includes six countries – Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan – and concentrates on four policy dimensions: bi- and multilateral relations, governance and financial assistance. In terms of bilateral relations, the Eastern Partnership foresees Association Agreements including strengthened trade relations and enhanced political dialogue, whereas multilateral relations focus on energy projects. The EaP also aims at facilitating social development and creating stability, improving administrative capacities, enhancing regional cooperation by engaging with a wide range of international top and mid-level actors. The key objectives include the creation of a free trade area and gradual visa liberalization. The initiative also foresees meetings of Heads of State or Government of the EaP countries to be held every two years and yearly meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. The European Investment Bank declared its readiness to finance investment projects.