The EU focused its attention on other areas of its neighborhood, and more specifically on the southern neighborhood during this past year, due to the historical developments in the region, but the need, and exceptional challenge, remains that the EU's partnership relationship continues in tandem, mapping out the prospects and possibilities of the Eastern Partnership relationship in which the EU has invested so much, Greek prime minister George Papandreou told a working dinner on Thursday night of national delegations attending the EU's Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw. During the dinner, which was hosted by European Council president Herman van Rompuy and Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, whose country currently holds the rotating six-month EU chairmanship, Papandreou said out that the EU must take advantage of the significant work that has been made for the Eastern Partnership since 2009, pointing out that since then and up to the present partnership agreements as well as integrated free trade zones have been advanced, with impressive progress in certain instances.
Papandreou said that significant progress has also been made with respect to visa facilitation, which he called a "good omen for the future of the venture".
On multilateral relations, he described as important the four thematic platforms, such as those for the small and medium-size enterprises, Euronest and the Civil Society Forum.
Papandreou said that the Eastern Partnership relation has helped all the partner countries in approaching the EU, noting the differing results for each partner country, in accordance with the circumstances and the desire of each partner, given that every country moves at its own rate.
Given the above, "I believe it is time for the Partnership to move ahead more quickly and make a qualitative leap forward," the Greek premier said, adding that all the initiatives should be further developed, to the degree that "our partners increasingly approach the EU and the framework of its values and rules", while at the same time expressing his conviction that the Warsaw Summit will send a strong message and, with the eyes turned to the future, a joint political message able to mobilise the partners to accelerate their reforms.
The Partnership, on a new basis, will be greatly enhanced by the new European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) adopted by the European Council in June 2011 and by the emphasis placed on building substantive democracy and viable socio-economic growth, combined with enhancement of the Society of the Citizens, Papandreou continued.
He said that with the new ENP, which he said is founded on the principal of "more for more", the Eastern Partners will be able to receive more special support, if they manage better in various sectors, such as the integrated free trade zones, while equally important is cooperation in various fields, especially in areas of major interest, such as energy, and especially via the Energy Community, to which Moldova and the Ukraine already belong.
Papandreou added that there are also provisions for supporting the Society of the Citizens through the creation of a Civil Society Facility and a European Endowment for Democracy, as well as through expansion of the partners' participation in EU programmes.
"For now," he added, "let us join forces in a common battle against recession, advancing a sustainable economic and social recovery, and let us reaffirm our commitment for a deepening of our economic integration and for the long-term prospect of full participation of our partners in the EU internal market."
On the sidelines of the dinner, Papandreou spoke with German chancellor Angela Merkel, whom he congratulated on the German parliament's ratification of the July 21 eurozone summit decisions.
He also met separately with the prime ministers of Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Estonia and France, the UK deputy prime minister, and the presidents of the Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Papandreou further met with Rompuy on Friday, after which he was due to fly to Paris for a meeting in the afternoon with French president Nicolas Sarkozy.