Ministarstvo vanjskih i europskih poslova RH

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Riga, 21 May 2015 - Pusić: There are signs that situation between Russia and EU is calming

(Hina) - There are signs that the situation in relations between the European Union and Russia is calming and there are signs of a compromise between the six countries of the Eastern Partnership drawing closer to the EU on one side, and resumption of communication with Russia on the other, Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić said in Riga, Latvia, on Thursday.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanović and Minister Pusić are attending a summit of leaders of the EU and the six Eastern Partnership countries which is to start with a meeting of foreign ministers who are expected to agree on the last details of a joint declaration expected to be adopted on Friday.

"The drawing closer of the Eastern Partnership countries to the EU was never viewed in Europe as something against Russia because practically all European countries cooperated with Moscow before the situation in eastern Ukraine. There are indications that the situation is calming and that a solution is near, which could be concluded to some extent from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's address at the session of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers in Brussels earlier this week. His message was calmer and went in the direction of a peaceful solution," Pusić said before the start of the Riga summit.

She added that one of the main conclusions of the summit should be that Europe would take over the responsibility of dealing with the situation and finding a lasting peaceful solution and a compromise between the Eastern Partnership countries' drawing closer to the EU and resumption of communication between the EU and Russia.

Calming messages for Russia arrived on Thursday from Berlin as well, with Chancellor Angela Merkel saying in the Bundestag several hours before the Riga summit that the Eastern Partnership countries' drawing nearer to the EU had never been directed against Russia and that, on the other hand, those countries should not be given false hopes that they would join the EU one day.

Merkel said that the Eastern Partnership was not an instrument of EU enlargement policy and that it was not directed against anyone, especially not Russia.

She underlined that for the time being, Russia's return to the G7 group was not possible given the conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia's role in it.

The Riga summit is the first EU-Eastern Partnership summit after the change of government in Kiev, Russia's annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.

The last Eastern Partnership summit in November 2013 marked the beginning of a crisis that has led to the most strained EU-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War.

The then president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to sign at the last moment an EU association agreement, which later caused protests that led to Yanukovych's removal from power, which triggered an uprising of pro-Russian separatists that has resulted in the still ongoing conflict in east Ukraine.

The EU has been lately underlining a differentiated approach to each of the six countries making up the Eastern Partnership, in line with their aspirations and potential. Those countries are also not unanimous on the issue - on the one hand Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have EU membership aspirations, while Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus are not showing such ambitions.

Armenia and Belarus are members of the Eurasian Economic Union launched by Russia.

This is reflecting on talks on the text of the closing declaration, with Armenia and Belarus not wishing it to contain an explicit condemnation of Russia's annexation of Crimea.

On the other hand, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin wants a clear prospect of EU membership to be opened for his country at the Riga summit and he wants the EU to abolish visa requirements for Ukrainian nationals.

However, judging by the draft declaration that is still being negotiated, Ukraine's wishes will not come true.

The EU has cancelled visa requirements for Moldova, while Ukraine and Georgia have met most of the criteria for it.

Pusić said that a decision on the cancellation of visa requirements for the two countries could be made by the end of this year.

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