The heads of state or government of the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the representatives of the European Union and the heads of state or government of its member states met in Brussels at the Eastern Partnership Summit on 15 December 2021.
During the Summit, the leaders agreed a joint declaration, in which they reconfirmed commitments from previous Summits and bilateral agreements, as well as their determination to carry them forward. “On this path, our ambitious reform agenda and enhanced cooperation remains the necessary condition for progress and support: increasing prosperity and fostering peace, stability, sustainability and resilience in the region, notably in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says the declaration.
The document also highlights the importance of the digital transformation and the EU’s commitment in the area: “We will aim at accelerating the digital transformation including investments in digital infrastructure and e-governance. Building on the regional roaming agreement, we will explore further the possibility of a common international roaming space including the economically sustainable reduction of roaming tariffs between the EU and the Eastern partners.”
The declaration lists the key areas for a resilient digital transformation, confirming the targets set in the post-2020 Eastern Partnership priorities:
First, the reinforcement of secure electronic communication infrastructures, further digitalisation of public administrations and private sector actors, and investment in promoting digital innovation and digital skills.
The declaration also sets the following target: 80% of households should have access to affordable highspeed internet and 80% of public services in the EaP should be available online through interoperability platforms. Other targets include the mutually recognised digital signatures between four partner countries and with the EU, and one million EaP citizens digitally empowered through the creation of a digital education platform.
It also highlights support for the roll-out of the Regional Roaming Agreement (RRA) and Regional Spectrum Agreement (RSA): “the implementation of roaming and spectrum agreements among the partner countries and where appropriate with the EU, will be supported”. The document also specifies that retail prices for international roaming will be substantially reduced, and 5G networks will be secured by alignment with the EU coordinated approach.
In relation to eTrade, the declaration says cross-border e-commerce with the EU will be substantially increased, and four digital transport corridors will be created.
Significant investments will be also made to support high performance digital start-ups.
Finally, the declaration highlights the plan to boost cyber resilience and cybersecurity, institutional, policy and legislative frameworks in the region.
The Summit participants stressed that they look forward to the next Eastern Partnership Summit in 2023, which will be “the first milestone for the evaluation and review of the implementation of the new generation of priorities and targets.”