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EU debates eastern neighbours in Warsaw

PR dla Zagranicy
John Beauchamp 29.09.2011 08:59
  • Eastern Partnership Summit - 29.09.2011
Warsaw is hosting a two-day summit on the Eastern Partnership, an initiative to bring the EU’s eastern neighbours closer to the 27-nation bloc.

The event has been hailed as one of the most important during Poland’s six-month rotating EU Council presidency which began in July. Over 31 leaders from the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries are expected to descend on Warsaw for the summit.

The Eastern Partnership programme, which was initiated by Poland and Sweden in Brussels in 2008, seeks to bring the six post-Soviet countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine closer to the democratic and economic workings of the EU.

An official dinner given on Thursday evening for guests of the summit will be hosted by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, with speeches given by the PM and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy.

President Bronislaw Komorowski is also expected to attend.

The summit is also to produce a declaration on the so-called “European aspirations” of the EU’s partners within the programme.

Polish Radio has also learnt that Warsaw wants the declaration to include articles which may allow for a common trade area with the Eastern Partnership countries, as well as a possibility to introduce EU visa waiver schemes for their citizens.

Eastern Partnership overshadowed by ‘Arab Spring’?

In the months leading up to the summit, media have been speculating that the Eastern Partnership has been put on the ‘back burner’ due to the EU’s attention paid to revolutions taking place in North Africa and the Middle East.

Analysts claim that at the time of Poland’s EU Council presidency, Brussels has had to divert its attention to the EU’s so-called “southern dimension”, rather than concentrate on addressing countries to the east of the bloc.

However, President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek told Polish Radio that he does not agree with such claims, saying that “I am convinced that the EU cannot simply jump from one neighbourhood or one partnership to a second,” adding that “both [the Union for the Mediterranean and the Eastern Partnership] are key for us […].”

“There is no competition between the two,” Buzek underlined.

Ukraine association bid still on the cards

EU leaders are expected to address the gradual integration of Eastern Partnership countries with European markets during the summit.

One country which is trying to get closer to the EU – despite recent political movements – is the Ukraine, which hopes to sign an association agreement with the EU.

However, Brussels has frowned upon Kyiv for the arrest and trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko for her alleged misuse of power when signing a gas deal with Russia during her leadership.

According to Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a Polish MEP, discussions on the Ukraine will be on the summit’s agenda.

Talking to Polish Radio on Thursday morning, Saryusz-Wolski said that Warsaw is backing the signing of the association agreement with Ukraine, only to suspend its ratification.

“[We should then] wait until Ukraine realises that it has taken some bad decisions lately,” the MEP said, reminding that the agreement is not just geared towards economic integration, but is also “a geopolitical contract” which is to bring Ukraine closer to the EU.

The Eastern Partnership summit ends on Friday. (jb)

Audio by John Beauchamp

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