Source AP ©

Presidents of 8 EU states meet in Latvia for informal talks on Europe's future

The presidents of eight EU countries on Tuesday were scheduled to begin two days of informal discussions about the future of Europe and challenges facing the 27-member bloc.

Scheduled to attend the talks in Riga, Latvia's capital, were the presidents of Germany, Italy, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Portugal, Finland and Latvia.

This will be the fourth in a series of informal talks that were launched in 2003 in Portugal by the then President Jorge Sampaio and later continued in Helsinki in 2005 and Dresden in 2006.

The goal of the meetings is to give the presidents an opportunity to discuss in-depth and in a relaxed atmosphere a range of issues facing the European Union, which has absorbed 12 new members over the past three years and seen adoption of its constitution stalled.

Topics under discussion will include the future of Europe and Europe as a global player, while a debate on EU enlargement with a group of researchers and scholars will take place on Wednesday.

It is also expected that the presidents will touch on the political crisis in Ukraine and a planned gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany that has irked Poland, Sweden and the Baltic states.

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