Enlargement and ENP remain key priorities

Maria Karasinska-Fendler
Support for further enlargements and for the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) remain key priorities of the Polish government and the main political parties – including the opposition. There is also a general public opinion interest in developing good relations with all neighbours who are not members of the EU. Non-governmental organisations are deeply involved in aid for the development of democracy in those countries which were formerly members of the Soviet Union. On 27 January 2010, Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski delivered the opening address at the Madrid seminar “The Future of the Eastern Partnership: Challenges and Opportunities”. Minister Sikorski’s speech was followed by a meeting of foreign ministers from the Republic of Poland, the Kingdom of Spain and the Czech Republic. The Madrid seminar, organised jointly by the Spanish Presidency, Poland and the Czech Republic, reviewed the state of implementation of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in its bi- and multilateral dimensions, as well as examining the challenges ahead. The participants also appraised the EaP’s development perspectives and discussed ways to further consolidate it through deeper involvement of international financial actors, private sector institutions and NGOs. The seminar was attended by the representatives of the EU member states, the six partner states (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), EU institutions, international financial institutions (the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank) and European think tanks. The next and more concrete steps to promote the realisation of the EaP’s aims were discussed in Sopot, a Polish Baltic Sea resort. On 24 May 2010, at the invitation of Minister Sikorski, EU foreign ministers met in Poland for an EaP debate. First, the EaP was underlined as the first comprehensive initiative to bring Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine closer to the EU. The initiative aims to help those countries integrate with the EU. “Poland has proposed to create a “group of friends” for the Eastern Partnership, bringing together countries like Russia that want to participate in programmes related to the Partnership and be informed about them”, Sikorski told reporters after an EU ministerial meeting on the EaP. The “group of friends” would also include “such countries as Norway, Canada, the United States and Japan as well as others”, he said. It is aimed at facilitating multi-lateral meetings, the progressive liberalisation of EU visa regimes and the creation of a free-trade zone, as well as using EU funds for various projects in the region. The Partnership is “everything except a ‘cordon sanitaire’ against Russia”, France’s European Affairs Minister Pierre Lellouche told AFP after the meeting. It can be well seen that Poland wants to play a leading role in developing the EaP strategy and in its realisation. It is worth noticing that the Union for the Mediterranean is not perceived as a competitive but as a cohesive way of building up common EU relations with its partners. For that reason, Poland supports all Mediterranean projects, expecting in return support from a majority of EU members for its efforts on the eastern border.