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International Relations

Germany, France, Poland call for new EU approach to eastern neighbors

The foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland say eastern neighbors of the EU should not have to choose between Moscow and Brussels. The call is a response to the crisis in Ukraine.

After so-called "Weimar Triangle" meetings in Berlin and the eastern German city of Weimar on Monday and Tuesday, the three ministers said that European Union neighbors should have a more flexible range of cooperation options with the bloc.

Such countries should not face a "rigid decision" to either "come closer to the EU or cooperate comprehensively with Russia," they said in a statement on Tuesday.

The meetings were attended by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (seen above center) and his counterparts Radek Sikorski (right) of Poland and Laurent Fabius (left) of France.

The comments come in response to the current crisis in Ukraine, which was sparked by street protests against the government's rejection of an Association Agreement with the EU in favor of closer economic ties with Moscow.

"We perhaps underestimated how Russia would react to such offers (the Association Agreement)," Steinmeier told reporters in Weimar.

The three ministers also called on the EU to use "all the instruments at its disposal" to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, saying this would require concerted action from the West.

Integrating neighbors

In addition they demanded a "new dynamic of the European Neighborhood Policy," an EU program that seeks to improve ties of the east and south of the bloc.

The program, founded 10 years ago, covers 16 countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Ukraine and Georgia, and is meant to ensure stability and security on the EU's outer borders. It will be funded with 15.4 billion euros ($2.1 billion) from 2014 to 2020, money that is to be used, according to the ministers, for more flexible financial aid, better integration into the EU single market, more youth exchange programs and more relaxed visa regulations.

The "Weimar Triangle," set up in 1991 in Weimar, is intended to promote cooperation between Germany, Poland and France.

Originally established to help Poland emerge from years of communist rule, the group has been somewhat neglected in recent years.

However the Ukraine crisis has given new impetus to the group, with the three foreign ministers traveling together to Kyiv in February where they were able to help broker a deal to end the deadly violence.

tj/jr (AP, AFP, dpa)

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