Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates pledged to strengthen relations between the EU and Russia during its presidency of the European Union, which starts on 1 July. He stressed that the main emphasis would be put on the opening of negotiations on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Russia.
"The task is to arrive at a common strategic agreement that would unite our historic missions," Socrates told journalists at a press conference following his meeting with Russia's President Vladimir Putin on 29 May in Moscow. "With that idea, Portugal will embark on its EU Presidency," he added.
Putin said that Russia also wants a new accord with the EU, but emphasised that it would not make unreasonable concessions for the sake of a deal. "We want to sign such an agreement, but proceed from the assumption that it will be signed in the interest of both sides," he said.
Putin suggested that Portugal's EU Presidency could bring progress to Russia's relations with the EU. "We are hoping that when Portugal chairs the EU, a new impulse will be given to Russia's relations with its European partners," said Putin.
In sharp contrast to a recent EU-Russia summit outside Samara, the atmosphere at Moscow's news conference was warm and friendly. Asked whether the issue of human rights came up during the two and a half hour talks with Putin, Socrates warned his European partners against moralising over common …