EU Commissioner paves way for new agreement with Russia

A new EU-Russia partnership agreement is drawing nearer after high-level talks in Moscow paved the way for a key summit later this month. The European Union's External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, trie

Getting the EU-Russia relationship right is what the EU describes as being the most important challenge in European foreign policy. Benita Ferrero-Waldner noted that the potential of this relationship is beyond doubt.

Speaking with Duma deputies in Moscow the Commissioner never let things get too heated, straying away from hot topics like Kosovo’s independence and tensions with the former Soviet republics which have become new EU states. She did try and persuade Russia to push for a positive agenda with its neighbours.

“I think it’s crucial for stability in our common neighbourhood and in Central Asia. The EU is concerned that the recent Russian moves in Georgia, in particular, might undermine stability on Russia’s southern border,” Ferrero-Waldner said.

Her words were positive and encouraged partnership, mostly stressing that a strong Russia is good for the EU. Trade is booming between the two and both agree there is always room for improvement.

She added: “The new agreement between us should modernise our institutional framework and build a new partnership for the next generation of Europeans.”

But signing a new partnership agreement to replace the old one which expired last December has proved to be a problem.

At first negotiations were blocked by Poland due to a 2005 Russian embargo on meat imports over health concerns. And now Lithuania is blocking the new treaty demanding the EU addresses Moscow’s policy on Georgia and other former Soviet republics.