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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New EU States Look to the East

BRUSSELS -- The European Union's newcomers from Central Europe will try next week to shift the bloc's focus from the Mediterranean region to its eastern neighbors, which they feel are being neglected, diplomats said Friday.

Foreign ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and the three Baltic states were to meet counterparts from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan on Sunday on the eve of a conference on the EU's neighborhood policy.

"The idea is to create a joint front for Monday's meeting ... to give more emphasis to the EU's eastern policy," a Lithuanian diplomat said.

Central European countries that joined the EU in 2004 believe that the old members often pay more attention to the Middle East and North Africa at the expense of former Soviet republics, where Russia is fighting to roll back Western influence.

On Monday, the executive European Commission is to host a first meeting with all 15 partner states and the Palestinian Authority, which are covered by its European Neighborhood Policy.

Portugal, the EU's current president, has said the bloc's priorities should shift south after it successfully enlarged to the east because of terrorists threats since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

EU newcomers would also like to see the EU more involved in resolving "frozen conflicts" in the former Soviet Union, such as in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.