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19 Nov, 2009 11:40

ROAR: “It is time for Europe to open for Russia”

Out of 24 Russia-EU summits over 12 years, the last one may be called “successful,” many observers believe.
ROAR: “It is time for Europe to open for Russia”

Despite the fact that no significant decisions were taken at the meeting, the participants called the summit in Stockholm “one of the most successful during the last years,” Kommersant daily said.

“We discussed the development of major economic projects, issues of energy cooperation, and developing and ensuring energy security in Europe,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said, adding that “a good mutual understanding” was reached.

Medvedev also raised the issue of easing visa regulations for travel between Russia and the EU and stressed the need to agree on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, Russia may reduce emissions to 25% below the 1990 level by 2020, the aim which European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed as “encouraging.”

Nobody has expected “anything good, nor anything bad” from such summits for a long time, the daily noted. But the meeting in Stockholm “suddenly turned out to be different from previous ones,” it added.

The parties “just touched” the issue of the 2008 events in the Caucasus, “only to confirm” that their positions do not coincide, the daily said. But the summit gave answers to the two key questions – about the basic agreement on the cooperation between Moscow and the EU and Russia’s joining the World Trade Organization, the paper said.

Until recently, it was understood that Russia may join the WTO as part of the customs union along with Kazakhstan and Belarus. But Vladimir Voronkov, head of the Department of European cooperation in the Russian Foreign Ministry, told the paper: “If we are clearly told that Russia will get the access to the WTO, then we will be able to join this organization separately rather than [as part of] the Customs Union.”

Voronkov added that finalizing work on the basic agreement on the cooperation between Russia and the EU would also depend on the progress in negotiations on the WTO. “Our accession to the WTO would accelerate the process of the preparation of the agreement,” he said.

Medvedev said in Sweden that Russia was considering all the variants of the accession, but added that “speed” was the main thing. “Whichever way is shorter, we will take it,” the president said.

The heads of states and the European Commission also called the summit “successful,” but stressed that the parties should find compromises to solve some remaining problems.

In particular, the only “real” result of the summit was the signing of five agreements on the cooperation between the EU and Russian regions bordering the union. Gazeta.ru website described the meeting in Sweden as “the summit of unsettled issues.”

The summit “did not lead to the signing of the treaty on the cooperation between Moscow and Brussels,” the website said. However, Medvedev said he hoped the document would be finalized soon. The current agreement expired in 2007, but it was extended.

Now it is unclear when the document can be agreed, however the Russian president said that “the talks have seriously advanced,” the website said.

The two parties have been discussing the issue of easing visa regulations for several years, but it “remains unsettled,” Gazeta.ru said. Medvedev said in Stockholm that now visa-free short-term travels of Russians to the EU are being negotiated.

Visa regulations have been eased only for some categories of Russians, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said. Delaying the decision on visas for Russian citizens, “the EU is opening Schengen boundaries for others,” the paper said, referring to Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.

“The parties are simply obliged to make sure that their citizens have the right to travel free in the vast spaces of Russia and the EU,” the paper said in an editorial. And it is time for Europe “to open for Russia,” the daily added.

Russian proposals regarding a new system of European security also remain unanswered, observes note. Moscow is persuading Europeans that a new treaty should be signed, to “unite countries of different blocs such as NATO and the states that are not members of any blocs,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily said.

Energy security was another main topic at the summit, RBC daily said. “In the conditions of the beginning of the heating season and political and economic instability in Ukraine, the European Union needs guarantees that the gas crisis that happened at the start of the year will be never repeated,” the paper added, calling the summit “non-freezing.”

It was the last summit in the current format, the media said, adding that in the future the main contacts will be held for the most part with the EU’s president and foreign minister.

The Russian president stressed that whoever is elected president or foreign minister of the European Union, they “will understand the importance of developing relations between the EU and Russia.”

However, Fedor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, predicted “intensifying contradictions between Russia’s relations with particular European countries on the one hand and with the EU as an institution on the other.”

Many EU member states want to use the opportunities of the cooperation with Moscow, he said. However, the EU as a whole is Russia’s competitor in many ways, the analyst added. It is not clear how these two tendencies will interact, he said, adding that “interesting turns” are possible.

Sergey Borisov, RT