On 5 March in Prague, the High Representative of the European Union, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy and 13 EU Foreign Ministers were in attendance at presentation of the “Visegrad 4 Eastern Partnership” programme aimed at supporting the EaP states.
According to the schedule, the 5 March meeting in Prague was attended by High Representative of the European Union Catherine Ashton, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle, and the Foreign Ministers of the Visegrad Four (V4 – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia), the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the Eastern Partnership (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) and Denmark, who currently holds the EU presidency – that is thirteen EU ministers and high officials in total. The absence of a representative of Belarus, one of the EaP states, was a result of its last week’s dispute with Brussels.
As the Radio Liberty informed, the direct cause of the Minsk decision lies in actions of Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg, who sent an invitation not to Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynau, but to the Undersecretary of State in Belarusian MFA. The situation in Belarus was by itself one of the subjects raised at the meeting. The participants expressed their concern over the recent turn of events in this country and called authorities in Minsk to release political prisoners.
The main goal of the meeting was to present a new initiative authored by the Visegrad Group – “Visegrad 4 Eastern Partnership”. The programme is to aid transformation in the EaP countries in three dimensions: economic, political and of dialogue among ordinary people. Countries of the Visegrad Group aim at re-focusing the EU’s attention on situation in the EaP region, and also, on the other hand, want to share their wide transformation experience. The already launched International Visegrad Fund is to help to achieve it. However, any specific details regarding the Fund have not yet been presented.
Two other issues were discussed at the meeting. First, the officials debated on expectations concerning intensification of cooperation of the EU with Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, in particular in the field of visa facilitation. Secondly, the future of Association Agreement with Ukraine was strictly connected with the fate of the former – and now imprisoned – Prime Minister of Ukraine, which was underlined especially by HR Catherine Ashton and Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski. The EU wants closer cooperation, yet precludes acceptance of lower standards regarding jurisdiction on the banks of Dnieper.
Translated by KD