The European Commission has put forward a 2.3 billion-euro ($2.72 billion) economic and investment plan for Eastern Partnership countries, with the potential to mobilize up to 17 billion euros ($20.1 billion) in public and private investments.
In a statement released on July 2, the commission said the plan was part of a proposed agenda "focusing on recovery, resilience and reform" that sets 10 targets for 2025 with the aim of "increasing trade, growth and jobs, investing in connectivity, strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law, supporting the green and digital transitions, and promoting fair, gender-equal and inclusive societies."
The proposed long-term policy objectives are to be discussed at an Eastern Partnership summit planned for December 2021.
The Eastern Partnership was launched in 2009 with the aim of strengthening and deepening the political and economic relations between the EU, its member states, and six countries in the bloc’s so-called "Eastern Neighborhood" -- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
The commissioner for neighborhood and enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, said the proposed plan would help support socioeconomic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic by stimulating jobs and growth. He said it would include "support for a future democratic Belarus."
"At the heart of our work will be promoting democracy, good governance and the rule of law, which are so crucial to unlock positive, concrete results in our cooperation. This includes Belarus, where we want to continue to support the people through our Eastern Partnership framework," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
Earlier this month, the EU imposed far-reaching economic sanctions aimed at weakening the regime of Belarus's authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka after the forced landing of a European passenger plane in Minsk and the arrest of an opposition blogger who was on board.
In response to the sanctions, Minsk recalled its representative to the EU for consultations, announced a travel ban on unspecified EU officials, and said it was suspending its participation in the Eastern Partnership program.
Lukashenka’s regime was already facing international pressure over its brutal crackdown on dissent in the wake of a disputed presidential election in August 2020.
The European Union, the United States, and other countries have slapped sanctions on Belarusian entities and Lukashenka's inner circle over the brutal crackdown on the opposition and the media by Belarus's authorities following the vote.
The opposition says that the election was rigged, and the West has refused to recognize the official results of the vote and does not consider Lukashenka to be the country's legitimate leader.