A new agenda to help the Eastern Partnership and the EU in their joint work on recovery and reform, underpinned by significant investment, was officially launched at the Eastern Partnership Summit. The event took place on 15 December, in Brussels.
Summing up the high-level meeting at a press conference, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen identified several key areas of discussions.
The launch of a new ambitious phase in the Eastern Partnership was a priority topic at the Summit. Von der Leyen said thatas a part of the overall €300 billion Global Gateway initiative, the Economic and Investment Plan for the Eastern Partnership could trigger €17 billion of investments for the Eastern partners. She added: “There are very interesting, impressive projects in the pipeline, for example making buildings in Moldova more energy-efficient, or to expanding high-speed internet to rural Georgia, or to rolling out fibre optic cable under the Black sea – just to name a few.”
The President paid attention to the empty chair that was in the room during the discussions: “I hope that this chair will soon be filled by a legitimate, democratically-elected Belarusian leader. We all know that the Belarusian regime represses its own people; it instrumentalises migrants, putting their lives at risk; and it is launching in parallel a hybrid attack against the European Union.” She added that the Summit unanimously condemned Lukashenko’s behaviour: “We all stand with the Belarusian people.”
Reacting to the Russian military build-up along Ukraine’s eastern border, the Summit called on Russia to de-escalate and refrain from any further aggressive acts. “We assured Ukraine of our steadfast support and commitment to its sovereignty and to its territorial integrity. And there should indeed be no doubt: the European Union will respond firmly to any further aggression against Ukraine,” said Ursula von der Leyen.
The President of the European Commission also said the EU was ready to provide vaccines to the people of Belarus within the EU support to the Eastern Partnership countries with vaccine deployment: “We have set aside vaccine doses and we are right now looking into ways of delivering them to the Belarus people as quickly as possible.”
Von der Leyen reminded that the EU has shared 13 million doses of vaccine with its Eastern partners, and just signed a €35 million agreement with the Polish development bank that will allow the EU to step up its support.
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