Merkel sets tough line at EU summit with eastern partners

Update: May, 22/2015 - 11:44

RIGA — German Chancellor Angela Merkel has told the EU's eastern partners not to expect too much of the bloc and warned Russia to mend its ways over Ukraine if it wanted to rejoin the G-7 club of top nations.

At the same time, Merkel, who has played a key role in Ukraine peace efforts, said on Thursday Russia had no reason to fear closer ties between the 28-nation bloc and six of its Soviet-era satellites.

"The Eastern Partnership is not aimed against anyone, especially not against Russia," Merkel told the German parliament before leaving for the two-day summit in the Latvian capital Riga.

At the talks, EU leaders will reaffirm their commitment to developing political and economic ties with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, according to a draft communique.

They aim to build on the November 2013 Vilnius summit that ended in chaos when Ukraine's then president, Viktor Yanukovych, baulked at signing an EU association accord alongside Georgia and Moldova.

His refusal sparked massive pro-EU protests that led to his ouster in February 2014, then to Russia's annexation of Crimea and a bloody conflict in eastern Ukraine with separatists.

Ukraine's pro-Western President Petro Poroshenko completed the agreement last year and wants ultimately to join the EU, but all the signs are that this can only be a very long-term objective at best.

The Eastern Partnership is "not an instrument" of EU enlargement, Merkel said. "We must not therefore arouse false expectations which we cannot later fullfil." — AFP