Lukashenko presence at Eastern partnership uncertain - EC

Hluboka nad Vltavou - The European Commission does not yet know whether to invite Belarussian President Alexandr Lukashenko to the May summit on Eastern partnership, Commissioner responsible for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner told CTK today.

It is too early for such a decision, Ferrero-Waldner said.

The question will be on the agenda of the two-day talks of EU foreign ministers that started at the Hluboka chateau in southern Bohemia today.

Eastern partnership is to reinforce cooperation with former Soviet Union countries including Belarus and it is one of the priorities of the current Czech EU presidency.

The project is to be officially launched at the summit in Prague in early May.

The project was approved by the recent EU summit. Instead of the original 350 million euros, 600 million euros are to be spent on it.

"I think it would be too early," Ferrero-Waldner replied to the question of whether the meeting would agree on whether to invite Lukashenko, whom some have called the last European dictator.

She said the two-day informal meeting, presided by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, is an excellent opportunity to debate the issue.

Brussels has repeatedly criticised Belarus for the violation of human rights. However, the situation recently somewhat relaxed there. As a result, the EU recently extended the suspension of travelling sanctions on the leaders of Lukashenko's regime.

Ferrero-Waldner said Belarus should be given another chance to take further steps, on which she did not elaborate.

She said she was considering going there.

Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said if the EU wanted Belarussians to move closer to Europe and its values, cooperation with Minsk was needed. The conversation should be conducted along European rules, he added.



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