Moscow stresses need for new agreement with EU

The Russian President has called for talks on a new partnership agreement with the EU to start as soon as possible. The statement was made at the 20th Russia-EU summit currently underway in the Portuguese city of Mafra.

The talks are also focusing on a range of international issues, including the status of Kosovo, Iran's nuclear programme and the ongoing row over the U.S. anti-missile shield.

“We did not hold any talks on the new partnership treaty. So we are hoping that on December 1 the current agreement will be automatically extended for another year. I also hope that soon we’ll be able to start negotiations on a new fundamental agreement and work out the draft of this important document,” said President Putin.

Russian and European business circles are also hopeful the process will start in the near future. They say the old agreement is outdated and hampers the development of efficient business relations.
Iran’s nuclear programme

Earlier, Vladimir Putin spoke about the Iranian nuclear programme and warned that any further UN sanctions against Iran may force Tehran into a corner over its nuclear programme. It comes as the Russian leader met his EU counterparts at a summit in Portugal. The status of Kosovo and energy security were also on the agenda.

Russia's President said Russia remains opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He said the point was made clear at last week's Caspian summit in Tehran. He also questioned the effectiveness of sanctions.

“So why threaten Iran with sanctions or military action? In North Korea we are close to finding a solution – and that was done through dialogue,” Mr Putin stressed.

Kosovo status 

Among the issues that top the agenda of the Russia-EU summit on Friday is the status of the Serbian region of Kosovo.

According to Russian officials, Moscow could vote in favour of an independent Kosovo if Pristina and Belgrade reach agreement between themselves first. But time is running out, as the Kosovans threaten to declare independence unilaterally if there is no compromise by December 10.

Energy security

The security of energy supplies is also among the top issues on the agenda. Europe, heavily dependent on energy imports from Russia, fears a repeat of the events of 2005 and 2006 when Russia's demand that its gas was bought at market prices was followed by energy disputes, first with Ukraine and then Belarus. 

This time Russian officials are offering to introduce an early warning system that will alert Brussels in advance should such cases occur in future. This seems to calm some of the Europeans who pledge their support to Russia:

“We cannot understand the history of Europe without Russia and we cannot conceive the future of Europe without Russia,” stated Portuguese Ambassador to Russia, Manuel Marco Kurtu.

On the matter of steel we need some progress. The agreement we have has been extended for another year. We are happy with this new agreement. On the whole, we think that it is beneficial for the steel industry. It will help us sell our goods in Europe and to make the situation more stable,

Aleksey Mordashov,
CEO of Severstal Group

Economic co-operation

On Friday morning, Vladimir Putin met the representatives of a round-table conference of Russian and EU industrialists and entrepreneurs. The session had some important results. One of them is an agreement on co-operation in fighting drug trafficking, and another is the agreement on steel that has been extended. 

At the conference the issue of Russia’s accession to the WTO was also brought up. In connection with this, Anatoly Chubais, Head of Russia’s Unified Energy Systems, said that the negotiations should finally come to an end: 

“It is politicians who should set the timeline for Russia’s accession to the WTO. We have heard a lot of statements about Russia being very close to it. It’s like Groundhog Day. There’s no sense in repeating those statements again. I personally would call politicians to either set a deadline or provide an exhaustive list of required conditions that are still unresolved,” said Anatoly Chubais, Unified Energy Systems CEO.

To watch the media briefing, please follow thelink.