PRAGUE, April 25 /ITAR-TASS/. An international conference on the theme of "The Eastern Partnership. Five Years On: Time for a New Strategy?" is to be held at the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs here on Friday.
"The main purpose of the meeting is to sum up the results of the first five years of the implementation of the Partnership programme, consider its present-day state and develop long-term aspects," a Czech Foreign Ministry official told Itar-Tass.
The conference agenda also includes items connected with Ukraine's crisis and the supply of gas to Europe.
The conference is to be attended by Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek, Stefan Fule, the European Union (EU) Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, the presidents of Austria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Hungary, Georgia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, and Slovakia. Ukraine is represented by Andrei Deshchitsa, Verkhovna Rada-appointed acting Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Cooperation within the framework of the Eastern Partnership may result in agreements on free trade and liberalization of visa policy, experts say. In exchange for such privileges, EU countries will demand that the ex-Soviet republics step up efforts to fight corruption and illegal immigration, and take joint actions in the field of energy policy.
At the same time Jan Hamacek, speaker of the lower house of the Czech parliament, said in the run-up to the meeting that the Eastern Partnership programme does not signify an automatically provided access to the EU for the participating states.
The Eastern Partnership is the EU's multilateral programme aimed at developing regional cooperation with six ex-Soviet republics, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. It was suggested by Poland and Sweden at the EU Council session in May 2008 at Foreign ministers' level. Officially, the Programme, which is under the stewardship of the European Commission, was activated on May 7,2009.
The main tasks of the Eastern Partnership (EP)+are, in particular, to bring Eastern European and South Caucasus countries closer to the EU and deepen cooperation with them, create conditions for political association and a further economic integration.
Three basic orientations have been worked out for interaction with EP representatives preparation for the introduction of visa-free arrangements, the establishment of a Free Trade Areas with each participating coutnry, and their linking up to the European energy system.