Lithuania expects the six-month Latvian presidency of the European Union (EU) Council, which is starting on Thursday, to focus on the Eastern Partnership program.
© DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said Latvia has noted three key priorities for the presidency period, namely, competitive, digital and globally-committed Europe. "We support the priorities, as their implementation comes in response to the biggest challenges the EU has been facing," the ministry's Information and Public Relations Department said in a comment to BNS.

"We expect Latvia to actively continue the Eastern Partnership initiative amid its commitment to create a globally-committed Europe," said the ministry.

Both the Foreign Ministry and some MPs told BNS that the Eastern Partnership summit, which is scheduled for May, may become one of the key events of the presidency period.

Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova would want to get an EU membership perspective in Latvia, however, the move may seem too big of a commitment to Western Europe, therefore, the participants are likely to discuss other instruments, such as progress in the efforts to achieve a visa-free regime.

"Among the set presidency priorities, Latvia has also envisaged the Eastern Partnership, just as Lithuania did. It seems to me that the Eastern Partnership summit will be the biggest challenge for Latvians. When I recall the Lithuanian presidency, we expected signing of the association agreement with Ukraine, and you see what became of it. In any case, the Eastern Partnership summit will be the key challenge for Latvians, as the Eastern Partnership project is somehow a bit 'suspended', and the partnership countries of Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Georgia are very different," Benediktas Juodka, the chairman of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, told BNS.

"We know that Latvia will continue developing the Eastern Partnership, although did not go into detail in the presentation of priorities, on how further progress of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will be achieved. This was an abstract statement by the chairperson of the Latvian parliamentary European Affairs Committee. In other fields, they will concentrate on economic development and creation of jobs," the European Affairs Committee's chairman Gediminas Kirkilas said in comment of the Latvian priorities.

Latvia will be the first EU Council presidency in the new EU political cycle. "It is a major challenge and a responsible task. Our neighbor's preparations for the work was early and thorough, and the Lithuanian experience is that this is one of the most important recipes of successful presidency," the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said in a comment.

Lithuania held EU Council presidency in the second half of 2013. During the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in late 2013, Ukraine was expected to sigh the association agreement with the European Union, however, the country's then president Viktor Yanukovych refused due to what he said was Russian pressure.

The news from Vilnius triggered a wave of protests in Kiev, and Yanukovych was forced to flee the country. Russia then annexed Crimea, and Russian-supported separatists gained grounds in a few cities in Eastern Ukraine.

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