Big day dawns at Riga Summit

Take note – story published 8 years ago

European leaders met in the Latvian capital Riga Friday on the second day of a summit meeting designed to determine the shape of future relations between the 28 EU member states and six member of the bloc's Eastern Partnership policy: Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus.

As leaders filed into the venue at the Latvian National Library most stressed the importance of the Eastern Partnership, though British Prime Minister David Cameron signalled he was intent on starting a debate about Britain's relations with the European Union itself rather than the membership aspirations of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in particular.

“It's in Britain's interests that this is a success but this is also an opportunity to start some of the discussions about reform of the European Union,” Cameron said.

EU foreign policy supremo Federica Mogherini said the summit could usher in "a new era in our partnership".

"Today we get to the stage of normal working relations between partners. It might not be sensaional but it is beneficial for our people."

"I think this is going to be a good day for the European Union and the six partners," said Mogherini.

As the meeting got underway EU vice president Valdis Dombrovskis told LSM the summit was the climax of his homeland's six-month Presidency of the European Union and that it would leave a lasting legacy.

Valdis Dombrovskis on Riga Summit
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“The deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with Ukraine... I think is going to be reconfirmed at this summit once again despite different objections from Russia and on the side of the summit we will also be signing a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine for the 1.8bn euros financial assistance programme,” Dombrovskis said.

Welcoming heads of state, Dombrovskis' successor as Prime Minister, Laimdota Straujuma, said: "Today we, together with colleagues from the EU and the Eastern Partnership region, will discuss the results achieved and further tasks of the Eastern Partnership policy.”

A small demonstration by around 50 people from Ukraine and Georgia demanding their countries' membership aspirations be accelerated took place outside the venue.

Viktor Baramania from Georgia told LSM: “From our side it's another chance to state that we are here, we would like to join the EU family and we are ready to be there. We know it's not going to happen in the next year or two but definitely we are on the right track.”

Aleksandr Sushko from Ukraine said: “We are bringing a message to the participants at the summit. They need to recognise a fully-fledged European perspective for our countries because our countries are European but politically this is still not recognised. We do not have a formal perspective of membership in the EU.

“The EU needs to be consistent in its policy towards the aggressor, which is Russia. The EU should continue its policy to punish the agressor for its occupation of part of Ukrainian territory.”

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