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Eastern Partnership woos former Russian sphere

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Eastern Partnership woos former Russian sphere

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Exerting soft power to strengthen European ties with Ukraine, Georgia and four other (former Soviet) republics. The EU’s “Eastern Partnership” initiative has set out to negotiate new association agreements – trade and aid pacts including easier visa conditions.

The External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferroro-Waldner, spoke in terms of rewarding Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Belarus for democratic and free market reforms. She said: “This is designed to help each individual member come closer to the European Union. They all have as you know different objectives and states of development. But the EU standards they are trying to approach are indeed the same for all of them.” The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso Barroso, suggested any proprietary ideas on Russia’s part would be misplaced: “The Cold War is over. And so when there is no Cold War, there should not be spheres of influence. We are against the idea of spheres of influence.” He also said that events in Georgia in August had influenced the eastern partnership process. It offers some 350 million euros in new aid. The plan does not offer any EU membership prospects, but diplomats say it is likely to bother Russia. Belarus must first launch democratic reforms to qualify for the programme.