Eu/russia : Talks Still Stuck in a Rut

Europe-East, December 19, 2006 | Go to article overview

Eu/russia : Talks Still Stuck in a Rut


Following the failure of the EU's efforts to agree on a negotiations mandate for talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement agreement with Russia, top EU officials met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on 24 November to achieve as much progress as possible on other issues. On arriving at the Helsinki summit, Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, said that Poland's veto on talks "can be overcome". "We have hundreds of other things to discuss," said the EU's External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

After the summit, Putin stressed that EU-Russia relations will not be affected by a delay in the launch of the negotiations for a new framework agreement between the EU and Russia. "There will be no legal gap in our relations. We will be patient and wait, hoping that the goal will eventually be achieved," said Putin.

Despite considerable efforts, the Finnish Presidency and member states were unable to find common ground on how to deal with the Russian-Polish conflict over meat and plant product imports. Nor was there an EU compromise position on the form of a future agreement on energy cooperation with Russia.

Europolitics obtained a copy of the draft proposal discussed during talks on the negotiation mandate on 23 November. The document says that Warsaw wanted talks with Russia to be suspended if Moscow did not lift the ban within 50 days of the adoption of the negotiation mandate or if the outcome of negotiations on energy issues did not yield as much as in the case of ratification by Russia of the Energy Charter Treaty and Transit Protocol. But this proposal was not approved by all member states. Warsaw, in turn, did not want to accept a political declaration offering "support" and "solidarity" with Poland over its row with Russia.

The outcome of ten-day consultations within member states on their position towards the Russia-Poland conflict shows how divided the EU is when it comes to Russia. The split lies somewhere between the EU10 and the EU15. The EU's latest recruits, the EU10, are still suspicious of Russia's true intentions. They expect the EU to pursue a more forthright policy towards Russia. …

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