Council Conclusions on the Eastern Partnership
At the meeting of the EU's Council of General Affairs and External Relations
(GAERC) on Monday 23 February in Brussels, ministers discussed preparations
for the launch of the EU's Eastern Partnership, an initiative to enhance cooperation
with the neighbouring countries of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan,
and, possibly Belarus. The Council Conclusions note that ministers "reaffirmed
the political commitment by the December 2008 European Council to establish
the Eastern Partnership."
They also flagged a number of issues for further discussion, such as visa liberalisation, the articulation between the Eastern Partnership and the Black Sea Synergy, the participation of Third countries and the financing.
The partnership, due to be launched in May, will involve a strengthening of political and economic ties, including cooperation on energy security, free travel to the EU for citizens of partner countries, an increase in financial assistance and the prospect of association agreements.
After the meeting, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner commented: "I think that after the [Russian]-Georgian war and the Russia-Ukraine [gas] crisis we see that there is a clear imperative [of] stepping up our game in the eastern neighbourhood and therefore we have a crucial interest in political and economic stability [there]".