The Commission's attempt to forge a European Neighbourhood Policy with countries on its southern and eastern borders will be dealt another blow when Poland and Sweden present their joint proposal for an 'Eastern Initiative' at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday (26 May).
Poland and Sweden plan to upgrade their relations with Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and possibly Belarus.
Earlier this week, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the commissioner in charge of the EU's Neighbourhood Policy, struggled hard to bring France's EuroMed proposals back into an existing EU framework known as the Barcelona Process.
In a carefully-worded statement, she admitted that the Barcelona Process had its shortcomings and recognised the need to upgrade it with a "more coherent partnership based on co-ownership of the process".
But before this crisis was settled, Poland and Sweden had come up with their own 'Eastern Initiative'.
"Bad examples are always contagious," said a diplomatic source, who added that Ferrero-Waldner was now starting to take it personally. A spokesperson told EurActiv that the commissioner was preparing to give a reaction after Poland presents the initiative at the foreign ministers' meeting on Monday.
Central to the ENP are bilateral action plans agreed between the European Commission and the partner countries. But unlike those bilateral deals, the new regional initiatives, although quite different from one other, tend to focus more on a multilateral framework.
Moldova for instance has already embarked on a regional initiative known as the South East European Co-operation Process and it is an active member of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe - an initiative focusing mostly on the Western Balkans and which is due to be replaced soon by a Regional Cooperation Council.
In the long term, however, the country wishes its ENP status to be substituted by the more formal EU candidate country status. "ENP is obviously not an appealing option," a source commented.