Situation in Ukraine tops Eastern Partnership’ Prague summit agenda
Heads of state and other officials from countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as three post-Soviet states of South Caucasus have met in the Czech capital at a two-day conference dedicated to the European Union’s Eastern Partnership programme, an initiative founded five years ago in Prague with the aim to strengthen the European Union’s relations with six states of the former Soviet Union. But discussions about the programme’s five-year existence as well as its future prospects were overshadowed by the current situation in Ukraine.
“We unanimously agreed on the term ‘recommendation’. It means the participants of the meeting recommend to the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian borders as a peaceful gesture contributing to de-escalation of the existing tension.”
Mr. Zeman also said the Czech Republic offered to play a key part in the mediation process which might take the form of shuttle diplomacy between Kiev and Moscow.
Ukraine’s acting foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia, also present at the conference, said his country welcomed the initiative, and Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič said his country, as Ukraine’s neighbour, might also get involved in that process.
The conference participants also agreed to recommend to Ukraine to decentralize its government in line with the Geneva agreement and guarantee its citizens free and fair elections.
Representing the EU at the summit was its Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Štefan Füle. He said on Friday the situation in Ukraine was the gravest crisis in Europe since 1945 and in its light the European Union should give more backing to the Eastern Partnership programme.
On the fifth anniversary of the foundation of the multinational project, the summit agenda also included the programme’s outcomes including visa facilitation, as well as ways to boost future cooperation between the member states who despite of different foreign policy orientation strive for good neighbourly relations.
This week’s summit in Prague, however, was definitely dominated by the increasingly tense situation on Ukraine’s borders.