Eastern partnership to help Russia to be close to Europe: Polish FM

Eastern partnership to help Russia to be close to Europe: Polish FM

Azerbaijan, Baku, June 18 / Trend , E.Tariverdiyeva/

The faster we integrate the states of Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus with the EU, the more likely it will be that Russia itself adopts a pro-European orientation, Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslav Sikorski said.

"If we see Russia's future as being in partnership with the European Union, we cannot deny the same prospect to our common neighbors," Sikorski said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

The Eastern Partnership is the Polish-Swedish initiative in the neighborhood policy, aimed at improving the EU's relations with the post-Soviet countries. The program was approved at a meeting of the EU on March 20. Constitutive summit of the East Partnership will be held on May 7. Eastern Partnership will cover the six countries neighboring the European Union: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus. The program will provide the EU countries-neighbors, 600 million euro in the 2009-2013.

According to Sikorski, Russia has vast potential for Europe, but we learned during last August's conflict in South Ossetia and the gas crisis in January, it is a potential that can be used to the detriment of Europe's economic stability and security.

The Eastern Partnership, particularly if Russia can be encouraged to participate in its multilateral projects on a case-by-case basis, would open the way to the gradual convergence of Europe's western and eastern parts, he said.

The Eastern Partnership is an open offer of closer cooperation. Its aim is to support transformation by stimulating the region's economic development and to strengthen democracy, freedom and civil societies by enhancing judicial and administrative capacities to approach EU standards, Sikorski said.

"We should not forget that these countries have been independent states for a mere 18 years, during which they had to design a new economic system, confront the problems created by the disintegration of cooperative ties within the former USSR, and build the foundations of their own statehoods," Sikorski said.

Although EU membership for the countries of Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus is not yet on the agenda, we in Poland feel that the prospect of accession should be kept open.

"The six new partner countries have great geographic, demographic and economic potential. A new free-trade zone with a consumer market of almost 80 million people would give the European economy a boost," Sikorski said.

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