EU summit welcomes Eastern Partnership initiative
It will be launched in the first half of next year
European Union (EU) leaders on Friday welcomed the Eastern Partnership initiative proposed by the European Commission last week, which aims to significantly strengthen EU policy with regard to its eastern partners, Xinhua reports.
The assembled heads of state called on the EU Council to study the proposal and report back with a view to the initiative being approved at the 27-nation bloc`s summit next March, said a draft document released after the conclusion of a two-day EU summit Friday.
The union aims to officially launch the Eastern Partnership at a summit meeting with partner countries organized by the incoming Czech presidency of the EU in the first half of next year.
EU leaders believe that the Eastern Partnership would help the partner countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine make progress in their reform process by contributing to their stability and further movement toward the EU, said the document.
The Partnership foresees free trade, easier travel to the EU for citizens of these nations, enhanced energy security arrangements benefiting all concerned, and increased financial assistance, security and defense consultations, as well as far-reaching economic integration with the EU, the document added.
Under the plan, the EU will triple its aid to the six partner countries to 1.5 billion euros (1.95 billion U.S. dollars) by 2020.
The EU summit also endorsed guidelines adopted at last month`s meeting between the group`s foreign ministers and their counterparts from the members of the Barcelona Process Union for the Mediterranean, and called for further ambitious implementation of this initiative to establish the Union for the Mediterranean in all its dimensions.