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Catherine Ashton: EU supports expansion of cooperation with Eastern Partnership Countries

04 March 2011 [12:12] - TODAY.AZ
The European Union is committed to promoting cooperation with the Member States of the European Eastern Partnership Program, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said on Thursday in Bratislava. Ashton made such a statement following an extended meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia) with the representatives of the Eastern Partnership , RIA Novosti reported.

The talks were also attended by European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule, and German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.

Slovakia was represented at the meeting by Foreign Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi, and Polish Secretary of Foreign Ministry Nicholas Dovgelevich. The foreign ministers of Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as the deputy foreign minister of Belarus, also arrived in Bratislava.

Ashton stressed that it is necessary "to intensify cooperation between the EU and these countries and support their integration ambitions and economic reforms." "A concrete action plan will strengthen the connection between us - the countries of the Eastern Partnership and the EU,” she added.

She noted that it has become clear that the Eastern Partnership Project was the "best form of cooperation at both the governmental and non-governmental levels, as well as in business."

Ashton said the EU will further continue to work with non-governmental organizations in the countries of Eastern Partnership so that a civil society has a strong voice.

The foreign ministers of Visegrad Four talks and the Eastern Partnership also attend GLOBSEC 2011 Bratislava Global Security Forum opened in Bratislava on Wednesday.

The Eastern Partnership Program is a Polish-Swedish initiative under the EU Neighborhood Policy aimed at improving EU relations with six former Soviet countries Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine and Armenia. The program envisages the allocation of 600 million euro to these countries until 2013 to strengthen state institutions, control borders and help small companies.

The program does not envisage opportunities for EU membership, but instead envisages facilitating the visa regime, energy cooperation, and the introduction of free trade zones. Small projects on student exchange, environmental protection, and energy supply will also be implemented.

The Visegrad Group was formed on Feb. 15, 1991 at a high-level meeting in Visegrad, Hungary, which created an imaginary historical arch linking the idea of this meeting to the idea of a similar meeting, which took place there in 1335. The central motif of the two meetings was the desire to intensify mutual cooperation and friendship among the three Central European states. In the wake of the disintegration of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Visegrad Group had since then been comprised of four countries, as both successor countries, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, are members of the Visegrad Group.


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