“The idea of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova joining forces within the Eastern Partnership went a long way from being almost rejected in Brussels to accepting it as a new reality,” – Dmytro Kuleba, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

The Associated Trio (joining forces of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia) was initially suggested by the expert community of respective states and later supported by their governments. The importance of Trio was stressed throughout the 4th Association Exchange Forum that took place on October 21-22, 2021, in Kyiv, Ukraine. The aim of the Forum was to bring diplomats, high-ranking officials, public experts, representatives of international organizations and projects of the Associated Trio together to discuss experiences and challenges in implementation of Association Agreements with the European Union. Representatives of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia agreed that the Trio became a platform for sharing ideas and practices related to Association Agreements, European integration and further EU membership.

Necessity of the Associated Trio cooperation was not the only raised issue. Security and external threats, economy and trade, states’ internal policies and the progress they had made so far were also discussed at the Forum. The significance of Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and the readiness of the Associated Trio to enhance its trade with the EU was mentioned several times. Furthermore, the problems of energy and Covid-19 pandemic became prominent. Mr Kuleba noticed that Ukraine wanted to make bigger contribution to the EU policies which include the European Green Deal, the Energy Union and the Digital Single Market. Matti Maasikas (Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine) and Andrei Popov (Director of Multilateral Cooperation Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Moldova) confirmed that gas and energy were crucial when talking about implementing the EU standards in Ukraine and Moldova.

Mr Maasikas together with Mr Kuleba, Mr Popov and Teimuraz Janjalia (Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia) also talked about internal reforms that must be implemented in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, confirming that the most vital challenges for the presented states were fighting the corruption and judicial reform. Trio states shared the progress they had made in these fields and concluded that they were moving in the right direction. The separate session of the Forum was also devoted to the Russian Federation and China as external threats which undermine the democratic transformations in Associated Trio and promote their own business interests. The Forum concluded with the statements of Trio states’ presidential administrations representatives (Cristina Gherasimov – Moldova, Pierre-Alexandre Crevaux – Georgia and Ihor Zhovkva – Ukraine) about states’ future cooperation at all levels, especially at the political one.

A few days after the Forum, on October 25, 2021 Ukrainian, Moldovan and Georgian Prime Ministers (Denys Shmyhal, Natalia Gavrilita and Irakli Garibashvili) held an online meeting during which they discussed how to enhance Trio’s integration into the EU. Mr Shmyhal stressed the importance of focusing on security, small and medium business development, health, trade, transport as well as digital cooperation. According to the data provided by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, Trio agreed to coordinate efforts on the common priorities’ implementation and “intensify the activities of the relevant tripartite working groups.”

The joint efforts of the Associated Trio and the progress they have made demonstrate participants’ strong willingness and determination to work towards becoming part of the European Union.