“2011 is target date for Russia’s WTO entry” – European Commission president

Russia can expect to join the WTO in 2011, says Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission.

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With the skies over the European Union darkening, the European Union is boosting cooperation with Russia, which is moving closer to admission to the World Trade Organization.

Speaking after the first session of the Russia-EU summit in Brussels, Barroso hailed Russia’s bilateral relations with separate European states, but pointed out that relations with the European Union as a whole cannot be neglected too.

President Medvedev just came from Warsaw, Poland, and he told me the meeting went very well, and it’s great,” he said. “But on a European level, many issues are now dealt with by Europe as a whole. For instance, the internal market. This is a responsibility of the European Union. A single country cannot give Russia what EU as such can offer.”

Barroso said he was happy to finally see progress in talks about Russia’s membership in the WTO, which he said has been going on for years.

“I remember the first time I had this summit was in 2004, this was my 13th summit and in all the other summits we were discussing this issue of the WTO,” he said. “Now we can say that this issue is decided. But I think now it’s realistic to have 2011 as a target date for WTO membership for Russia, which is good.”

“I think that it is not normal when one of the most important countries in the world – which Russia is – is not yet a member of the only truly multilateral organization for trade. So I’m very happy with the results of this summit.”

The president of the European Commission also stated Brussels’ readiness to support Russia’s modernization efforts.

“We believe there are some areas where we can be your partners, from technology to market issues, entrepreneurship and, of course, the rule of law, because it is important for a modern society to have a stable system of rule of law. And in fact now we have an agenda with concrete areas – for instance, in terms of energy and the environment, in terms of common standards. The overall concept is to help modernize Russia.”

Barroso brushed aside concerns about the stability of the euro zone.

“The EU is, generally speaking, in a very good shape,” he said. “I have no doubts that we will tackle all our problems, because the level of interdependency in Europe is so huge, that it is of great interest to all countries, not only to the countries that are most exposed, but also the others, to protect the euro area, and that is what we are doing.So I’m fully confident in the future of the euro and the euro area. And by the way, it is also of interest to Russia and the global economy. The euro is now the second currency in the world. Russia has very strong reserves in the euro. So we have a deep interest in the sustainability of the euro and we all hope for it.”