EU foreign ministers discuss Eastern Partnership, Ukraine and strategic partnership with Russia

The EU Foreign Affairs Council on December 16 discussed the follow-up to the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on 28-29 November, ENPI Info Centre reports. Foreign ministers also discussed recent developments in Ukraine, following the visit of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashtonto Kyiv.

In preparation for the lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the Council took stock of relations with the EU’s strategic partner Russia, a press release said.

Eastern Partnership and Ukraine

The Vilnius summit has yielded concrete and substantive results, particularly the initialling of the Association Agreements with Georgia and Moldova, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said following the Council meeting. She briefed foreign ministers about her meetings in Kyiv last week with President Yanukovych, with the opposition leaders, civil society and the three former presidents.

Ministers confirmed that the EU is keen to sign the Association Agreement with its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area part as soon as Ukraine is ready and the relevant conditions are met. “We believe that the Agreement provides the best way to address Ukraine’s short term economic challenges,” Ashton stressed. “Its signature too would send a powerful signal of confidence to international markets and to financial institutions. And it also serves as a blueprint for political and economic reforms and therefore long term development perspectives, “ she went on to say.

The Council reaffirmed the need to find a negotiated solution to the current political stalemate and welcomed the public support for the political association and economic integration with the EU by so many across Ukraine.

Ministers called upon the Ukrainian authorities “to ensure that the citizens have the right of expression and of assembly and urge everyone to refrain from using any violence.” An adequate investigation of the recent acts of violence against peaceful protesters and the release of the remaining detained demonstrators must be ensured, Ashton stressed.

Russia

Over lunch with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on December 16, preparations for the upcoming EU-Russia Summit at the end of January were discussed, among other issues. “We are strategic partners and there are a number of international files where we work closely together,” Ashton stressed, citing Iran as an example.

With regards to the Eastern Partnership, Catherine Ashton pointed out to Sergei Lavrov that “Russia too will benefit from more stability and prosperity from what this Partnership can bring to our Eastern Partners, including Ukraine, and therefore also to Russia.”

The EU’s association and free trade agreements are fully compatible with existing trade agreements and respect the traditional links between Russia and its neighbours, Ashton emphasized, adding that “Ukraine can have strong and good relations with all neighbours and that goes too for all of our Eastern partners.”

Source: ENPI Info Centre