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29 Jun, 2008 02:37

Russia-EU relations 'find common wavelength'

Relations between Russia and the European Union have reached a new level, as leaders gathered earlier this week for talks in the Russian city of Khanti-Mansiysk in Siberia. After 18 months of stalling, Russia's and Europe's top officials signed, sealed an

The summit in Khanti-Mansiysk has proved to be a landmark meeting after the divisions that prevented the partnership agreement talks from starting earlier.

“Today we can officially announce the launch of full-scale negotiations to work out a new framework agreement. It should be based on pragmatism and respect for the interests of the parties, as well as a common approach to the problems of security. This should be the basis of a strategic partnership between Russia and the European Union in the long-term view. The first round of talks will take place on July 4 in Brussels,” President Medvedev said.

First there was a row with Poland over meat imports, and then with Lithuania about oil supplies – two examples of why Russia is suspicious of the value of the 'Euro-solidarity' approach.

“The problem is not between the European Union and the Russian Federation. The problems are often within the EU. Some countries utilise the principle of European solidarity. The more the EU expands and the more countries join, the more difficult it becomes to follow that principle,” said Medvedev.

This is something Dmitry Medvedev has mentioned a number of times, most recently in his first interview to western media.

At the summit Medvedev argued Russia's priorities with calm conviction.

Naming corruption and poverty as the country's biggest problems, Medvedev also emphasised the importance of judicial reform.

While Medvedev is presenting a slightly softer tone to the outside world, he's also made it clear he does not intend to bend under pressure.

“Our foreign policy will not be determined by the amount of criticism we face, but by our own internal values. In this sense Russia’s foreign policy will be a continuation,” he said.

However, Moscow and Brussels are both clear-sighted enough to see that minor disagreements shouldn't stand in the way of major deals.

Europe is Russia's largest trade partner, and Russia supplies a quarter of Europe's energy needs.

Despite the fact that both sides want more involvement in the other's energy sectors, there’s no denying that together is the best way forward.

Views on many international issues are also shared.

“We are still concerned by the rights of Russians in Latvia and Estonia, the unacceptably mild approach towards the glorification of Nazi accomplices, and the attempts to rewrite Europe’s 20th century history,” Medvedev said.

European President Jose Manuel Barroso responded by praising the Russian people’s efforts during World War 2.

“We very much acknowledge the contribution of Russia – at that time the Soviet Union – in the fight against Nazism. This is something we really value a lot,” said Barroso.

They agreed on respecting the past, but there are some future prospects that Russia is standing firm on.

The Washington-led anti-missile defence elements being in close proximity to Russia's borders is not something Dmitry Medvedev considers effective.

Hopes of constructive dialogue and effective solutions to common problems, however, are high.

The EU's foreign policy head says “they've found a wavelength” – and both sides seem to appear to want to stay on it.

After the talks with the EU leaders, Dmitry Medvedev welcomed the presidents of Finland, Estonia and Hungary to the Fifth International Congress of the Finno-Ugric Peoples.

Held every four years, the event focuses on protecting traditional cultural values while keeping pace with the modern world.

The leaders discussed ways to combine the benefits of globalisation with a traditional lifestyle.