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The European Union is set to offer its eastern neighbors, including Armenia, more trade and aid benefits in a bid to reinforce democracy and boost development among nations forming a “ring of friends” around the bloc.

The DPA press agency reported on Tuesday that the strategy to be published on November 29 by the European Commission envisages up to 300 million euros ($384 million) to be provided to nations which introduced speedier political reforms, with 700 million euros earmarked for a fund to promote investments.

In addition, the EU will offer neighboring nations’ greater participation in EU trade and economic policies.

“We need to extend to our eastern neighbors some of the advantages enjoyed by southern Mediterranean states,” said an EU diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The possibility of easier visa procedures will be available for countries which agree to sign deals for the readmission of their nationals found to be illegally on EU territory.

Eastern nations participating in the neighborhood policy include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.

Last week Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan signed individual action plans as part of the EU new neighborhood policy.

In an RFE/RL interview last week Peter Semneby, the European Union’s special representative to the South Caucasus, said that the EU will closely watch the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Armenia.
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