In related news, outgoing European Affairs Minister Alexandr Vondra said ahead of the Eastern Partnership summit that it is a way of offering these countries the highest possible relations with the EU given that they were not yet ready for membership. It was not a substitute for joining the EU, he added. The upgrade in relations for some countries could mean that they sign association agreements with the EU. These set out a broad framework for cooperation. EC President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the summit's conclusion that the new agreements would push political and economic reforms which could bring the countries closer to the EU. Separately, Mr Vondra said he would have expected the leaders of large EU countries such as Britain, France, Italy and Spain to have attended the meeting.