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The Czech Republic is going to switch the EU's attention from the Mediterranean to its Eastern neighbours. It intends to complete discussions between governments on the final elements of the Eastern Partnership (EP), at the March European Council. This will pave the way for the new East-oriented project to be launched at a special summit, involving the leaders of EU member states and the six participating countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), in April or May.

The summit will take place after the Council's review, scheduled for April, of the temporary suspension of visa sanctions on Belarus. "The participation of Belarus in the launch event and the whole project will depend on the outcome of the Council's evaluation," a Czech diplomatic source told Europolitics.

Within the next few weeks, Czech diplomats will have to fashion a middle-ground agreement on such key sticking points as the EU's financial contribution, the governance structure of the initiative and its relation to Russia.

Although the Commission's proposal (see Europolitics 3638), was generally warmly welcomed by all EU capitals, some concerns about elements of the document have been voiced. Greece, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and France, which traditionally have close relations with the EU's Southern neighbours, argued that the current balance of funding between Southern and Eastern participants in the European Neighbourhood Policy should be maintained, with Italy warning against creating separate policies for these two groups of countries.

In its communication, the Commission proposed to earmark, in addition to resources already planned, 600 million to finance the EP for 2010-2013. More...

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