Lithuania today took over the Presidency of the European Union under the six monthly rotation system. The programme priorities of the Lithuanian Presidency state that:
"As the European Union moves towards recovery, closer cooperation between member states is needed more than ever in order to ensure growth, job creation and better competitiveness. The EU must demonstrate to its people and the world that it pursues credible financial and economic policies, is committed to growth through joint initiatives that increase competitiveness, and aims at security for its citizens and openness with its partners."
One of the highlights of the Lithuanian EU Presidency will be the Vilnius Summit of the EU with the Eastern Partnership countries which is scheduled to be held on 28 and 29 November. Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament last week, EU High Representative on Foreign and Security Policy, Catharine Ashton reported that EU Foreign Ministers, meeting in the framework of the Foreign Affairs Council were:
"very keen to build up to the Eastern Partnership Summit that will take place in Vilnius and we've been regularly discussing our relationship with our partners, also because we have the meeting of the Ministers of the Eastern Partnership with the Foreign Affairs Council on the 22nd of July. The purpose of that will be to show the importance we attach to engaging with our partners in the East, involving them early in the process of preparation for the summit and to encourage a sense of ownership for this summit.
The Council was very clear that we need to also think about what we do next, after Vilnius, to be ready to have a strategic debate and to be ambitious on the post-Vilnius roadmap. You know that we want to have the initialling of the Association Agreements, including Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas, with Moldova, Georgia and Armenia in Vilnius. We think it's realistic to assume that we can get to that initialling.
I don't have to remind anybody in the Parliament that Ukraine has issues that require further progress. We think it is possible to sign the Association Agreement, with the trade part, at Vilnius, provided Ukraine fulfils the benchmarks that have been provided by the Council last December. But we still remain worried about rule of law and selective justice issues. It is important to keep our engagement, important to be clear on our expectations. We also thought that we'll continue the discussion of engagement in Belarus, especially with civil society, as we move towards Vilnius."
Ashton said nothing about Azerbaijan in her statement, a reflection of the current ambiguity in relations between the EU and Azerbaijan, despite the public statements made by both sides during the recent visit of President Aliev to Brussels.
source: commonspace.eu with the Press Service of the European Union
Ahead of the expected Armenia-Azerbaijan summit, Benyamin Poghosyan argues in this op-ed for commonspace.eu, that the negotiating paradigm based on the Madrid principles is doomed.
"In essence this is an olive branch to the government's critics", commonspace.eu political editor said in a comment. "Its significance should not be understated. President Aliyev has in the last weeks been preparing the country for major changes. This presidential pardon may well be the opening shot of more to come".