The EU Commission has called on EU nations to provide more aid for Ukraine and four other ex-Soviet states as part of a proposed "Eastern Partnership" program aimed at making the bloc's Eastern doorstep more stable.
Angry Kiev residents protested last week against rising energy bills and demand wage increases
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on Monday, Feb. 23, that the European Union has a "crucial strategic interest" in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
Unveiled by the European Commission last December, the "Eastern Partnership" foresees granting some 350 million euros ($448 million) in extra help between now and 2013 to the EU's ex-Soviet neighbors.
Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, Ferrero-Waldner said the bloc's so-called "Eastern Partnership" had gained urgency in the wake of the August conflict between Georgia and Russia and January's gas standoff between Russia and Ukraine.
"The 'Eastern Partnership' is a very timely initiative that needs to be implemented," Ferrero-Waldner said, adding that problems in Eastern Europe "affect us directly."
Eastern Europe has been hard hit by the global slowdown with many countries facing rising popular anger as cash-strapped governments cut spending.
Ukraine, which received billions in aid from the International Monetary Fund last year, has seen widespread demonstrations as its economy crumbles and savers rush to pull out money from banks.
The plan aims to promote economic and political stability in the countries and reduce Russia's influence in the region. It includes free trade agreements, visa waivers, financial aid and economic integration with the EU.
In return, the eastern neighbors are expected to step up progress toward economic modernization, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The "Eastern partnership" scheme is to be approved at an EU summit next month and launched in May.
But some EU member states have expressed reservations about the proposal.
France, which pushed the EU's Mediterranean Union project last year, is reported to fear that increasing funding to the bloc's eastern neighbors would shift the EU's strategic focus away from North Africa and the Middle East.
Author: Sonia Phalnikar (ap/afp)
Editor: Kyle James
The lower house has passed the first article of a sweeping plan giving authorities greater powers to combat terrorism. But human rights groups say the proposed changes to the constitution will undermine citizens' rights.
Two passenger trains have collided head-on near the town of Bad Aibling in the southern German state of Bavaria. Police told German agencies that at least nine people have been killed and 50 seriously injured.
The public loved him as an entertaining presenter of talk shows. Roger Willemsen also wrote bestsellers, loved football and was one of Germany’s best-known intellectuals. He has died at just 60 years old.
It's an exceptional event: Glamorous stars meet challenging political filmmakers on the red carpet during Berlin's International Film Festival, the Berlinale. Get your facts straight here before it opens on February 11.