EU gives green light for partnership talks with Russia

EU foreign ministers have endorsed the European Commission's mandate for talks on a new strategic partnership agreement between Russia and the European Union.

The negotiations, which have been postponed for more than 18 months, are now expected to be held in late June at a summit in the Siberian city of Khanty-Mansiysk.

The previous agreement expired last December. It was signed before the collapse of the Soviet Union and Russia now insists the new agreement should match the modern political landscape.

In late 2006 Poland blocked the adoption of the European Commission's mandate for the talks. Warsaw demanded the assistance of the EU over the dispute that followed Russia's embargo on Polish meat imports.

This year it was Lithuania that put obstacles in the way of talks beginning. The Baltic state demanded the resumption of crude oil supplies cut by Moscow in 2006 and a solution to the so-called ‘frozen conflicts’ in the former Soviet republics of Moldova and Georgia.

But in May Lithuania dropped its objections to the start of the new talks, saying the EU has taken into account its concerns.