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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Meets to Discuss Neighborhood Policy

BRUSSELS -- The European Union and its neighbors held their first high-level meeting Monday, calling for closer ties but split on how to advance a relationship key to energy, trade and security cooperation.

EU ministers gave differing views at a conference in Brussels as to whether to stress relations with eastern neighbors from the former Soviet Union or those in the Middle East and North Africa.

They also differed on whether cooperation under the so-called European Neighborhood Policy should be seen as a route to EU membership. Britain, Poland and the Baltic states said such a possibility should remain open to at least some, but Germany said the policy had nothing to do with EU enlargement.

The ministers gathered to respond to a paper published in December by the European Commission proposing more economic and trade integration, easier access to visas and scholarships, greater political cooperation and additional financing mechanisms to support reform in neighboring states.

Britain's minister for Europe, Jim Murphy, said there should be no membership bar for those that met EU criteria."For those countries looking ahead to a broader perspective, the door to EU membership remains open," he said.

Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga said membership should be an option for some, naming "Ukraine and probably Moldova," but not others.