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16.03.2015 13:20 Politics, Belarus — EU

Eastern Partnership countries will decide for themselves who will represent them at summit in Riga, ambassador says

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN
Minsk, 16 March. It is up to the Eastern Partnership countries to decide on the level of their participation in the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, Latvian Ambassador Mihails Popkovs told BelaPAN.
Latvia, which currently holds the European Union’s presidency, will host the Fourth Eastern Partnership Summit on May 21 and 22.
Mr. Popkovs recalled an earlier statement by Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics that the organizers of the summit would like Belarus to be represented at the summit at the highest level.
Mr. Popkovs noted that invitations to attend the summit had traditionally been extended to countries and not government officials. “I don’t think that the tradition will be violated this time,” he said.
Given the EU`s plans to revise its European Neighborhood Policy by the end of 2015, the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga should become a platform for discussing new ideas and proposals, while its declaration should be an ambitious and clear plan for developing the Eastern Partnership in the years to come, Mr. Popkovs said.
He shrugged off allegations that the European Neighborhood Policy was directed against any third state. The policy is based on the principle that every participating country has the sovereign right to make its own choices, he said.
“Even before Latvia took over the EU presidency, we and our Belarusian colleagues had repeatedly discussed measures to improve not just bilateral relations, which are going well, generally speaking, but also relations between Belarus and the EU,” Mr. Popkovs said.
He described “European values” as a key element of the policies of all EU member states, adding that the EU was committed to the cause of democracy in both neighboring countries and across the world.
At the same time, the idea of taking a more differentiated approach to cooperation with individual Eastern Partnership countries is gaining traction, Mr. Popkovs said. “In its recent statement, the European Commission said that we should understand the special aspirations, values and interests of our partners more clearly,” he said. “And although we have had differentiation from the very beginning, it has not always encouraged reform in partner countries, as they do not always feel that their special aspirations are fully taken into consideration.”
Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey represented Belarus at the Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013.
Since 2011, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been banned from entering the EU for ordering a post-election crackdown on his opponents.




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