Brussels calls on EU nations to back 600-million-euro Eastern aid
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external affairs commissioner, said the bloc's so-called "Eastern Partnership" had become even more necessary in the wake of the August conflict between
"The Eastern Partnership is a very timely initiative that needs to be implemented," Ferrero-Waldner said on the margins of talks in
In early December, the European Commission unveiled plans to spend an additional 350 million euros - on top of the 250 million already allocated - to help promote stability and prosperity in Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Moldova.
On top of modernizing these nations, the Eastern Partnership would promote free trade agreements and the gradual phasing out of visas for their citizens wishing to visit EU countries. Improving energy security is also a stated aim.
Noting that the commission currently spends about two-thirds of its regional cooperation money on the EU's southern neighbours, Ferrero-Waldner said she hoped member states would endorse the commission's eastern proposal at a summit on March 19-20.
But some member states in southern Europe fear that a major increase of funding to the EU's eastern neighbours would shift its strategic focus away from North Africa and the
The Eastern Partnership is expected to be formally launched at a dedicated summit taking place in
Last week, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he had been "very encouraged" by his meeting with President Alexander Lukashenko during his first ever visit to
It is not yet clear whether Lukashenko will be invited to the May 7 launch.