Speaking at the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite has underlined the EU's commitment to cooperate with the countries belonging to its Eastern Partnership initiative - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
However, she emphasised the level of commitment from each country would determine how tight its relationship with the EU is.
The previous Eastern Partnership Summit was held in Vilnius in November 2013. There it was decided that free trade and association agreements with Moldova and Georgia would be signed, and the European Commission proposed considering the approval of visa-free travel for Moldovan citizens to EU member states.
Viktor Yanukovych, the then-president of Ukraine, refused to sign the association agreement with the EU. This led to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution that eventually saw Yanukovych flee the country.
According to the Lithuanian president, last year’s Ukrainian Revolution changed the security situation in Europe, and this has led to different levels of engagement with the EU from its Eastern European partners.
Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have chosen the path of European integration, while Armenia and Belarus have expressed their preference of the Eurasian Economic Union. Azerbaijan would like a special status cooperating with the EU.
Grybauskaite underlined the EU would not pressure these countries into choosing the European perspective.
"These countries make their own choices,” she said. “Nobody is forcing them to take any decisions.
“The countries and their people have to make up their minds themselves, however our duty is to help these countries develop their economies, enhance democracy, implement reforms, ensure human rights, and fight corruption.”
The Lithuanian president went on to explain the EU must ensure its support to the Eastern Partnership countries that wish to cooperate.
“This programme is an opportunity for these countries to take advantage of the EU's openness, experience and, finally, finances,” continued Grybauskaite. “Therefore I hope that this future of cooperation is a prospect, no matter what happens after Riga.”
In addition to Grybauskaite, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili will be present at the Eastern Partnership summit.
Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev will be represented by his advisor. Belarus will send its Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei.
The 2015 Eastern Partnership Summit will run from May 21 to May 22.