Support for a resilient digital transformation is one of the five policy priorities highlighted by the European Commission in its proposal for the long-term policy objectives of the Eastern Partnership beyond 2020, released on 18 March.
The new policy objectives aim at increasing trade, strengthening connectivity and deepening economic integration with the six Eastern partner countries, strengthening democratic institutions, the rule of law, environmental and climate resilience, supporting the digital transformation, and promoting fair and inclusive societies.
The five policy priorities are:
- A Partnership that CREATES
Together for resilient, sustainable and integrated economies
- A Partnership that PROTECTS
Together for accountable institutions, the rule of law, and security
- A Partnership that GREENS
Together towards environmental and climate resilience
- A Partnership that CONNECTS
Together for a resilient digital transformation
- A Partnership that EMPOWERS
Together for resilient, fair and inclusive societies
On the digital objective, the European Commission elaborates:
“A strong digital presence in the EU’s neighbourhood will enable growth and drive sustainable development. In this respect, the EU will invest further in the digital transformation of the partner countries, in line with EU legislation and best practice and support the scale up of highly innovative digital start-ups in the region. The EU will further support and assist the cyber resilience of partner countries.”
How will the new EaP policy address digital transformation?
As indicated in the Strategy on Shaping Europe’s digital future, the digital transformation can enable growth and drive sustainable development for both the EU and partner countries. This is why the EU will invest in the digital transformation of the partner countries, in line with EU legislation and best practice, and aim to extend the benefits of the Digital Single market to them. This will allow for better access to digital infrastructure and services, better public services and administration for citizens, the extension of broadband infrastructures especially in regions and local areas, and a strengthened e-Governance.
Announcing the policy, EU High Representative Josep Borrell said: “Our neighbours’ strength is also the European Union’s strength; the Eastern Partnership remains a crucial element of the EU’s foreign policy. Our proposals will further strengthen our six partner countries, reflecting the priorities and challenges that we share, while maintaining the emphasis on delivering tangible, positive results for all citizens.”
The new policy objectives emerged from the structured consultation on the future of the Eastern Partnership carried out in 2019, with broad and inclusive participation of Member States, partner countries, civil society organisations, academics and businesses and financial institutions. Overall, there is a broad consensus that the current Eastern Partnership policy framework is robust and delivers tangible benefits for people.
The Commission and the European External Action Service expect the Member States and partner countries to endorse the proposal in view of the Eastern Partnership Summit in June 2020, which will give a mandate to develop a new set of tangible deliverables building on the current 20 Deliverables for 2020.