EU plans stronger ties with East European neighbours

11:48, 07 November 2008
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Diplomats and EU officials have announced

The European Commission is working on an `Eastern Partnership` with Ukraine, Georgia and other countries lying on its eastern borders, diplomats and EU officials have announced, EurActive reported.

Ukraine wants an `Eastern European Partnership`, modelled on the defunct Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, as a precursor to future EU membership, the country`s ambassador in Brussels told journalists yesterday (6 November).

Ambassador Andri Veselovski said the multilateral aspect would be the main advantage of the proposed partnership, which would involve Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Christiane Hohman, spokesperson for EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, told EurActiv that the European Commission was also working on a proposal for an `Eastern Partnership` encompassing the same countries of the region, describing it as a "more comprehensive effort" than Ukraine`s proposal. The communication will be adopted in early December, she said.

According to Veselovski, the partnership`s added value compared to the EU`s current neighbourhood policy would reside in a joint effort to change perceptions about the region, which he said is too often portrayed as a conflict-ridden area unfit for EU integration.

Responding to a question by EurActiv, Veselovski said the Pact`s main advantage was that it could provide participating countries with a clearer perspective of joining the EU. A similar initiative recently launched by Turkey in the Caucasus could not offer this perspective, he said.

In a report assessing Turkey`s progress towards EU membership on Wednesday, the Commission commended Ankara for proposing a Caucasus Stability Pact after the brief Russia-Georgia war, which broke out last August.

The Ukrainian diplomat said he was seeking EU support to put in place a structure similar to the defunct Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, led by an authoritative high-profile Western personality. Like the Stability Pact, he said the new structure should have its headquarters in Brussels to give better access to European decision-makers.

The idea of an Eastern Partnership was first launched last May by Poland and Sweden. EU foreign ministers later asked the Commission to prepare a blueprint.

Regarding Ukraine`s preference for the name `Eastern European Partnership`, Hohman said that the decision to name it `Eastern Partnership` had already been taken.

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