This was a suggestion of the Foreign Affairs Minister of France Bernard Kouchner.
As Bernard Kouchner stated, according to the Agence France Press, the European Union suggests Russia and Turkey to join a number of summits within the “Eastern Partnership” program, that is devoted to the promotion of cooperation between the EU and six former Soviet Republics – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. “Everybody agreed to invite Russia and Turkey to join discussions in special cases depending on the agenda,” – stated Kouchner.
Let us remind, that when the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council discussed the policy of Eastern partnership before the oncoming EU summit, the decision was made to invite Russia to cooperate only within local initiatives, for example to solve Kaliningrad issues. The summit of the EU Council in Brussels was headed by Karel Schwarzenberg the Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic, the country that chairs the EU currently. During the meeting Foreign Ministers of the EU member-states established the general approach within energy issue and infrastructural projects, in the framework of the European Economic Recovery Plan and its funding. The discussion held was the main within the process of the arrangements of the spring EU Council Session on the highest level, that will take place on March 19th – 20th in Brussels.
Note, that 27 EU states will join the “Eastern Partnership” program together with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. And as Europe promises, in case of the program accomplishment, the EU policy will change greatly towards these countries that can become EU members ultimately. The program covers conclusion of new trade agreements, promotion of the establishment of new trade networks between the countries, their gradual integration into the EU economy, the relaxation of migration within the EU countries provided all safety measures are observed. The Eastern Partnership also includes new actions in the sphere of energy security and additional financial support of the initiative member-states. Although, unlike the “Union for the Mediterranean” program, the “Eastern Partnership” won’t have its Secretariat and will be coordinated the EC and financed by the “New Neighborhood” policy budget.
The “Eastern Partnership” program was approved by the leaders of 27 EU member-states during two-day summit in Brussels on December 12th, 2008. As expected, on May 7th, 2009 a summit will be held, during which the communiqué on the Eastern Partnership initiative will be signed. In this respect, it’s noteworthy, that Azerbaijan hasn’t yet decided on Eastern Partnership joining. “Azerbaijan reviews the EU offer to join the “Eastern Partnership” program and soon will inform us about its decision,” – stated earlier the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Azerbaijan Mahmud Mammad-Quliyev. “The “Eastern Partnership” program is the EU policy within the neighborhood initiative. Currently, we study this offer and later on will present our conclusion,” – said Mammad-Quliyev. “The accomplishment of the “Eastern Partnership” program will enhance the cooperation with the EU in specific spheres and will let us to sign the agreement on associated membership”, - added the Deputy Minister. Mammadguliyev underlined, that one of the priorities of this program is the promotion of trade networks and the conclusion of the free economic zone agreement. “However, this agreement will comprise only the World Trade Organization members. Georgia, Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine are the members of WTO, meanwhile Azerbaijan and Belarus are not,” – he added.
Nevertheless according to his words, Azerbaijan intends to extend its cooperation with the EU. “Particularly, Azerbaijan presented the EU a 130-pages report on the work done in 2008 in the context of the European Neighborhood Policy. The report also includes the measures taken to improve tax system, customs system, business sphere, fight against corruption and other spheres”.
Meanwhile, according to many Azerbaijani and foreign analysts, the Eastern partnership, instead of uniting the six former USSR Republics with the EU, reduces their chances to become full EU members.