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EU gives Eastern Partnership green light

By M. Alkhazashvili
Monday, June 23
As expected, EU leaders backed a project which will increase the Union’s ties with its eastern neighbors at a summit last week in Brussels.

The Eastern Partnership project, proposed by the foreign ministers of Sweden and Poland last month, will involve Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova, with limited involvement from Belarus.

“The European Council (EU governments) agrees on the need to further promote regional cooperation among the EU's eastern neighbours and between the EU and the region,” a draft statement from the leaders reads, according to the Reuters news agency.

Russia has criticized the plan. Earlier this month Sergei Minorov, speaker of the Russian upper house of parliament and ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said the project is not needed as the EU already has ties with individual countries.

All the countries involved in the Eastern Partnership project, aside from Belarus, are already part of the European Neighborhood Policy, which offers financial assistance as they carry out reform.

Whereas the European Neighborhood Policy consists of bilateral relations with participant states, the Eastern Partnership would act as a forum to discuss visa issues and free trade zones.