German chancellor Angela Merkel has backed Poland`s plan to enhance EU relations with five eastern European states, putting the "Eastern Partnership" scheme on track for formal agreement at this week`s EU summit, according to EU Observer."On Friday (20 June), we will ask the European Commission for concrete proposals so that this initiative does not give rise to mere titles, but to concrete projects," the chancellor said during a trip to Gdansk on Monday, Polish press agency PAP reports.
"I received unequivocal backing for this project from the chancellor," Polish prime minister Donald Tusk added, after receiving similar messages from the leaders of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier the same day.
The Eastern Partnership will be a new multilateral forum between the EU and Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, forging closer economic and political links and leading to visa-free travel deals.
It has no official tie-in to enlargement policy, but Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski recently said the partnership would make future accession "natural" once EU "enlargement fatigue" passes.
"We have been working for years with chancellor Merkel for a membership perspective for Ukraine," Mr Tusk added in Gdansk.
Poland sees the Eastern Partnership as a triumph after two years out in the cold in Brussels under the eurosceptic Kaczynski brothers, but it will play third fiddle to discussions of the wounded Lisbon Treaty at this week`s summit.
One analyst suggested the partnership will do little to change EU enlargement policy and ignores problems such as Russia`s monopoly on gas supplies to the EU`s eastern wing.
"We got backing for the Eastern Partnership because it`s not a controversial project," Polish ex-diplomat Marek Cichocki told the Rzeczpospolita daily. "Its acceptance costs Germany nothing."