Foreign Ministers Look to Future Relations with Russia
May Summit on horizon.
EU diplomats report that Foreign Ministers held a brief but not ill-timed "tour de table" on EU-Russia relations in view of the May Summit, to which all 15 EU Member States have been invited. Sources say that the Greek Presidency suggested making a "counter-proposal" to Russia's proposed agenda, featuring just one item of substance - "Future Relations". This was on the basis that it would be necessary to focus a formal discussion that was planned to last for only about two hours. Three countries in particular - Denmark, Ireland and Sweden - are reported to have voiced concerns about the idea. They suggested that this could leave no room for other important items, such as the human rights situation in Chechnya. The Presidency reportedly also expressed support for the idea of allowing the candidate countries to participate.
Commission paper in pipeline.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou confirmed after the meeting that the Commission would be presenting an assessment of relations with Russia for a further discussion at the March General Affairs and External Relations Council. This would look at how to develop the strategic relationship and, in operational terms, how to make it more streamlined and effective: "We are discussing what new structures may be put into place", he said, but creating "structures for structures' sake" should be avoided. Furthering co-operation in defence and security would also be important, the Minister added. …