“The summit in Vilnius a year and a half ago was a turning point in the Eastern Partnership policy. Since then, the geopolitical situation in Europe has changed dramatically highlighting different objectives of Eastern partners. But we have achieved a lot – the people of Moldova enjoy visa-free travels to the European Union, trade restrictions for Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova are being lifted. We must continue supporting these countries and be open to their people,” the president said in Riga on Thursday evening before the start of the Riga summit.
According to a press release circulated by the President’s Office, the Eastern Partnership policy is most beneficial for the people of these countries, as the implementation of European reforms makes Eastern partners stronger, more democratic and advanced, with less corruption, more stability and well-being.
“Stable Eastern neighborhood also means a more secure Europe,” said the Lithuanian president.
Grybauskaitė emphasized that in the near future it is very important to help Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine implement free trade agreements, and the EU must remain open to the citizens of Eastern Partnership countries. According to the President, the people of Georgia and Ukraine should get visa-free access to the EU once these countries meet all the necessary requirements.
In her words, cooperation between the EU and its Eastern partners in the fields of energy, transport, business and investment, digital economy, education and culture must also continue. Furthermore, it is essential to help Eastern partners improve the public sector, reduce corruption, increase people’s resistance to hostile propaganda, and strengthen the civil society, said Grybauskaitė.
On Thursday and Friday, the Riga summit is discussing EU relations with six post-Soviet Eastern neighbors, i.e., Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The last Eastern Partnership summit took place in Vilnius in November of 2013. At the meeting, Ukraine’s then president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the association agreement with the EU, opting for closer ties with Russia. The decision triggered a few weeks of protests, which forced the overthrown Yanukovych to flee the country. Russia later annexed Crimea, and Moscow-supported separatists started fighting against governmental forces in Eastern Ukraine. Incumbent pro-Western Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the association agreement with the EU last June. The free trade agreement should take effect in 2016.