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EU should not create strain between Customs Union and Eastern Partnership, expert says

January 31, 2014, 16:32 UTC+3 BRUSSELS

Erler expressed understanding of Russia's fears that establishment of a Free Trade Area with the Eastern Partnership countries would lead to an influx of cheap produce from the West

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BRUSSELS, January 31. /ITAR-TASS/. The European Union (EU) should not create tension between the Customs Union (CU) and the European Eastern Partnership program. This opinion was expressed on Friday, according to the Brussels online edition of EU observer, by Gernot Erler, German government's new coordinator of the German-Russian inter-societal relations.

"We must secure absence of tension between the Eastern Partnership and the Russian CU," the publication quotes him as saying.

Erler expressed understanding of the stand of Russia which fears that establishment by the EU of a Free Trade Area (FTA) with the Eastern Partnership countries would lead to an influx of cheap produce from the West, to the detriment of Russia's exports to their markers.

“I can understand this concern. I do not know what decision it will be but it is feasible and is being estimated by experts,” the analyst pointed out.

The EU Eastern Partnership program envisions political and economic drawing closer to the six post-Soviet countries — Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Armenia has already announced its intention to join the CU. Azerbaijan does not on the whole evince interest in the EU project. Relations between Brussels and Belarus are still characterized by a high degree of strain.

Georgia and Moldova, for their part, expect to sign an association agreement with the EU already in summer this year. The Association Agreement envisages the establishment of a FTA.

Ukraine, which in Brussels is referred to as "locomotive of the Eastern Partnership", suspended preparation for concluding an Association Agreement with the EU on November 21, 2013, several days prior to the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius (November 28-29), at which it was to be signed.

This served as an impetus to the start of protest actions by Eurointegration supporters in Kiev. The protests developed into a mass unrest and spread over to other regions of Ukraine.

Originally, the opposition demanded signing an Association Agreement with the EU, whereas after the dispersal of the rally in Independence Square on the night from November 29 to 30 demands ensued for a resignation of the government and the president of Ukraine.

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