Eastern Partnership should be elevated to higher level - Polish FM
The Eastern Partnership programme should be not only continued, but also raised to a higher level, Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said during a conference in Batumi devoted to the 10th anniversary of the project on Thursday.
The official also stressed that "it is our duty to support the EU aspirations of Eastern Partnership countries."
The Eastern Partnership is a Polish-Swedish initiative which emerged in 2009 and constitutes part of the European neighbourhood policy covering the EU's eastern neighbours. The aim of the Eastern Partnership is to strengthen political ties and economic integration between the EU and six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus.
Czaputowicz underlined the role of the project in the stabilisation of partner countries and said that "over the past ten years, the maximum of what could have been achieved, was reached in mutual cooperation of member countries."
"We must think about this in the EU in order to convince all countries not only to continue the Eastern Partnership, but even to raise it to a higher level of the Eastern Partnership Plus," he said, repeating that it was "a moral duty to support these countries if they want to join the EU."
"We should elevate the Eastern Partnership to a higher lever over the next ten years, make it more institutionalised, maybe establish a secretariat or a rotating presidency. This could help Eastern Partnership countries be more visible," he went on to say.
According to the Polish foreign minister, Eastern Partnership countries should also build ties and relations among themselves, because they can be more effective as a group.
Referring to the possibility of the start of accession negotiations with Eastern Partnership countries, Czaputowicz said the response must be positive "in order to demonstrate our support for the countries of the region."
According to Czaputowicz, some Western European countries are building 'barriers' to accession negotiations. "Some West European countries are afraid of new EU members; the growth of nationalism and nationalist tendencies are the main reasons for this reluctance," he added.
Asked about Russia's influence in the region, the official said that from Poland's point of view, Russia is breaking international law. He also confirmed Poland's support for Ukraine's and Georgia's territorial integrity.
"Poland supports - like the majority of states, I believe - Ukraine's territorial integrity," he said, stressing that one should also remember that "Russia is a very important partner and a neighbour of some of the Eastern Partnership countries."
Before the conference, Minister Czaputowicz met with Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani.