Eu-Russia Summit : Eu Sets Objectives for Last Rendez-Vous' with Putin

Article excerpt

The upcoming EU-Russia summit in Mafra on 26 October might turn out interesting. It will be the last meeting between the EU and Vladimir Putin as Russia's president. No one expects the Russian leader to positively surprise Europe on this occasion. On the contrary, with such issues on a plate as Kosovo, Iran and the frozen conflicts in Moldova and the South Caucasus, little positive outcome is expected. Secondly, Putin has no reason to expect easy talks either. Except for issues which traditionally top the list of EU priorities for summits with Russia, such as energy cooperation and the World Trade Organisation negotiations, the representatives of the Union will likely ask Putin inconvenient' questions about the unfriendly' investment climate in Russia, the restrictions on freedom of expression in the run-up to the country's parliamentary and presidential elections, the future of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and the unresolved bilateral trade disputes.

According to a strategy paper on the EU's objectives for the Mafra summit obtained by Europolitics New Neighbours, the Union will not shy away from discussing difficult subjects and urgent issues Putin. Unlike at the last summit in Samara in May, the EU wants to press Russia to "avoid the selective use of flanking policies' (such as environment and taxation) to undermine existing investments, or to put up hidden barriers to new investment". The Duma - Russia's lower house of parliament - is preparing to pass a law that is expected to restrict opportunities for foreign direct investment in various sectors of the Russian economy. The law will regulate foreign investors' share in certain strategic industries. The bill stipulates a six-month period for a state commission to authorise such deals. The Union will also insist that Russia simplify its "cumbersome registration procedures for foreigners," which create "unnecessary obstacles for EU businesses".

The EU plans to express its "concerns" over the situation of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Russia, particularly with regard to restrictions of freedom of expression and assembly as well as increasing pressure on NGOs in the run-up to parliamentary and presidential electionsa (in December 2007 and March 2008, respectively). …