November 03, 2010

The Eastern Partnership: Political Framework for Science&Technology Cooperation with the Eastern Neighbours

Eastern Partnership

The Eastern Partnership (EaP) has been officially put forward at the meeting of the Council of the European Union on June, 19-20th, 2008 in Brussels:
"The European Council welcomes the proposals for developing the eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy, which will aim at enhancing EU policy towards eastern ENP partners in bilateral and multilateral formats." (Presidency Conclusions, Brussels European Council)
On December, 3rd, 2008 the European Commission presented its Communication on the Eastern Partnership. On March, 19-20th, 2009 the Council of the European Union accepted the Commission's proposal. Finally, on May, 7th, 2009 in Prague all the representatives of the 27 EU member states and the partner countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaidshan) officially founded the Eastern Partnership.

EU HR Javier Solana, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and the Czech Republic Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek during their speeches at the Eastern Partnership Summit. Foto: Photographic service of the Council of the EU © European Communities

The idea of Eastern Partnership has a young history. It is likely that the establishment and development of the European Neighbourhood Policy and the political pressure from Sweden, Poland, and partly from Germany had been the predecessor of the EaP and concentrated on strengthening the EU relations with the eastern (and southern) neighbouring countries.

Development of the Eastern Partnership. Author's visualisation.
What kind of political framework the Eastern Partnership creates for S&T cooperation with our Eastern neighbours? The assumption is that Science and Technology transfer follow a non-hierarchical model and rely on voluntary action
External Dimension of the S&T Policy

International S&T policy became a policy driven approach at Community level with the launch of the Commission's strategic European framework for international cooperation in science  and  technology  (S&T), the Green paper - The European Research Area: New Perspectives, and the next cycle of the Lisbon Strategy. But what are the objectives of the Commission's European Framework for international cooperation in S&T and inclusion of the neighbouring countries into the S&T framework of cooperation?

The Commission's Communication "aims at giving a long term structure to the EU's international S&T policies by setting out:
  • several guiding principles for future international action
  • proposing an institutionalized partnership between member states and the Community
  • applying differentiated regional priority-setting
  • giving preference to regional approach for S&T agreements
  • fostering better framework conditions for international cooperation both at the national and EU levels" (Heiko Pange-Gstöhl, 2010
Now these considerations are to transfer at the system offered by the Commission of integrating the neighbouring countries:
  •  Differentiation (regional priorities and target countries) 
"Widening the geographical scope of the ERA to include ENP partner countries will make an important contribution to the EU’s policy goals towards   these   countries,   in   particular   building   sustainable economic   prosperity.   The association  process  will  unfold  gradually,  on  a  case  by  case  basis,  taking into  account endogenous  S&T  capacities,  present  and  potential  levels  of  cooperation,  and  the  mutual interests  of  the  EC  and  the  ENP  partner  countries.  ENP  countries  also  deserve  particular attention  on  fostering  international  cooperation  on  ICTs,  both  because  of  their  eagerness  to adopt EU patterns, and because some of them represent significant markets for EU technology companies." (COM(2008)588
  • Mechanism of cooperation - European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI)
"In order to promote closer scientific ties with these countries and to prepare association to the FP7, S&T capacity building initiatives and research cooperation will be undertaken by the EC through the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instruments and targeted FP7 activities (e.g. Specific International Cooperation Actions)." (COM(2008)588)  
  • Policy dialogue
"Policy dialogue with these countries is important. EC bilateral S&T agreements with a number of  them  (such as Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Ukraine) are a good setting for dialogue. In addition, bilateral policy dialogues on S&T will be launched with countries which signal a specific interest to become associated to FP7 but which have not concluded a bilateral S&T agreement with the EC." (COM(2008)588)

The integration of the neighbouring countries into the framework of the European Research Area has already been incorporated as a part of the relevant provisions of the European Neighbourhood Policy strategy papers (2004, 2006, and 2007). However, the Eastern Partnership emphasizes on the neighbours' approximation with EU standards and acquis under bi- and multilateral track:
  • S&T cooperation is pursued in the EaP context of general bilateral and bi-regional agreements the EU has signed with the eastern neighbors: Partnership and Cooperation Agreements, Action Plans, and Association Agreements (2009/2010).
  • S&T cooperation is pursued in the EaP context of bilateral S&T agreements associating Eastern neighbours (Ukraine and Russia) to the Framework Program.
The main purpose is to create a privileged partnership with the Community in science, research and technology matters. Setting priorities, assessing progress, and rating national behavior are the outcomes of bi- and multilateral cooperation. Analyzing the political framework the European Union has established in order to manage S&T cooperation with the Eastern neighbours may induce expanding to knowledge-related policy areas into areas such as economy, innovation and competitiveness, improving the added value, and improving the working procedure. Therefore, research policy in the framework of the Eastern Partnership does not imply „regulatory boundary shifting beyond the EU‘s own borders“:
"The legal boundary refers to the  regulatory scope  of  legal  rules  and  expands  when  parts  of  the  European   Community (EC)/EU  legal  order  or  the  acquis  communautaire  are  transposed  upon  non-member  states. (...) conceiving  of  the  EU's  neighbourhood  policies  as  a  form  of external  governance  which  consists  in  the  (selective)  extension  of  the  EU's norms,  rules and  policies, i.e.  its legal boundary (...)" (Lavanex 2004

When the European Union established the Eastern Partnership for managing relations with the Eastern neighbouring countries, the EU wasn´t planning the creation of new governance structure for integrating the partner countries. However, we can proceed from the assumption, that because of the activities carried out by the different stakeholders, the cooperation leads to interesting synergies between the executive, the political coordination, the implementation and dissemination level, and the end users. The most important outcome is to create functional and operational structure for cooperation. The main focus lies:
  • on the stimulation of exchange of ideas and experiences, and on the possibility of collaborative learning from good practices (implementation and dissemination level);
  • on the discussion where there is scope for increased policy coordination (political coordination level);
  • on joint development of systems and standards (all levels);
  • on alternative and more visible framework for multilateral cooperation (multilateral platforms), and on clearer tasks (flagship initiatives) to improve more sufficient infrastructure and enhanced policy dialogue (political coordination level);
  • on implementation of projects, programs and calls (implementation and dissemination level);
  • on information exchange and dissemination for policy makers and end users (all levels);
  • on reducing costs*;
  • on coherent target group of states (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaidshan, and Russia).   
S&T Cooperation: Governance structure. Autor's visualisation
Future - Exploring Synergy Potentials in the Eastern Partnership

The decision-making process in the European Union has been undergoing an experimentation phase (economic and financial crisis, provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, the creation of the European External Action Service) so that this governance structure is currently under construction. In its current form, the Eastern Partnership is dominated by the bureaucratic process of negotiating association agreements, deep free-trade zones, and visa liberalisation.

However, the European Union will have to continue making a substantial effort to ensure that the success of the S&T cooperation is sustainable. This puts high demands on better horizontal (across policies and administrations) and on better vertical (across stakeholders) policy coordination.
  • In a horizontal perspective achieving a coherent policy requires better coordination of Common Policies (Environment, Transport and Energy, Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Regional policy, Intellectual Property, Justice and Home Affairs - Visa liberalisation), structures avoiding duplication of political priorities and management responsibilities, and synergies achieving complementation with other European strategies such as the Black Sea Synergy, the EU Strategy for the Danube Region, and the Northern Dimension.
  • In a vertical perspective we have to recognize, that research policy in the context of the Eastern Partnership is a multi-level and multi-actor policy. (Heiko Pange-Gstöhl, 2010) Collaborative work between governments, EU institutions, and regions is needed to implement own strategies and programs to better integrate different stakeholders into the multilateral system of S&T cooperation and ensure they benefit more fully from participation.

Funding. Autor's visualisation. Source: ENPI info centre


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