BRUSSELS, January 25, 23:22 /ITAR-TASS/. The 32nd EU-Russia summit to take place on January 28 in Brussels will provide an occasion to have a joint reflection between leaders on the nature and direction of the EU-Russia strategic partnership.
The EU will be represented by Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and by Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, will also take part. Russia will be represented by the President Vladimir Putin, accompanied by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The summit, which will be held in a smaller composition and in a format conducive for an in-depth political discussion, will consist of a meeting among principals and key advisors, followed by a working lunch in the same format. A press conference will be held at the end of the lunch.
EU-Russia relations have recently been going through a challenging period and in this context the EU will seek to engage Russia in a firm yet forward-looking dialogue about the future of economic and political relations on our continent, the EU said.
The discussions among leaders are expected to focus on our common interests as well as differences in light of recent developments, including the respective regional economic integration initiatives, our common neighbourhood, trade questions and WTO obligations as well as other international commitments including those in the areas of rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and key foreign affairs challenges, such as Syria and Iran.
“This summit is an opportunity for a genuine joint reflection on the nature and direction of the EU-Russia strategic partnership. Our common interests are many and they encourage us to work together constructively. We have also had however a number of differences which need to be discussed and clarified. At this moment, we must focus on our common neighbourhood, regional integration processes, trade questions and international commitments,” Van Rompuy said ahead of the meeting.
President Barroso said: “Both Russia and the European Union have much to gain by strengthening our cooperation as strategic partners - but for this to be successful, we need mutual understanding and strategic trust. This is what we will try to consolidate at our next Summit, by an open discussion on our common interests, as well as on our differences and the best ways to overcome them. An honest, forward-looking dialogue about the future of our economic and political relations is critically important for the benefit of our people and for a democratic, prosperous and stable continent.”
The legal basis for EU relations with Russia remains the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) which came into force on 1 December 1997 for an initial duration of ten years, and which has been automatically extended beyond 2007 on an annual basis. It sets the principal common objectives, establishes the institutional framework for bilateral contacts, and calls for activities and dialogue in a number of areas.
Negotiations on a New Agreement to replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) started in July 2008.
Russia and the EU approved the principles and objectives of the Partnership for Modernisation their summit in Rostov-on-Don on May 31 and June 1, 2010. The Partnership for Modernisation is a shared agenda to help bring about economic and institutional reform, with due respect for democracy and the rule of law.
Economic ties between Russia and the EU have grown substantially over the last 15 years and Russia’s WTO accession in August 2012 has laid the basis for further increasing business opportunities. Russia remains the EU’s third most important trading partner (after the US and China), with 123 billion EUR in exported goods to Russia (7.3 percent of all EU exports, 4th place after US, China, Switzerland) and 213 billion EUR in imported goods in 2012 (11.9 percent of all EU imports, 2nd place after China). The EU is thus by far the largest market for Russian goods, accounting for 45 percent of Russian exports in 2012. The EU is also the main supplier for Russia, with a 34 percent market share, followed by China and Ukraine.
In both 2011 and 2012, bilateral trade increased by more than 10 percent. More specifically, Russia is the EU’s most important single supplier of energy products, accounting for 29 percent of EU consumption of oil and gas. In turn, Russia’s economy remains highly based on the export of energy raw materials, with the EU as its most important destination. In 2012, 76 percent of Russia’s exports to the EU consisted of crude oil, oil products and natural gas.
Issues and concerns regarding both the EU’s and Russia’s international commitments to guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms are a central theme in EU-Russia relations. Since 2005, the EU and Russia have held regular, six-monthly human rights consultations. These meetings have provided a platform for dialogue on human rights issues in Russia and the EU and on EU-Russian cooperation on human rights matters, notably in international forums.
Negotiations on an upgraded visa facilitation agreement are on-going. The updated agreement would extend the categories of beneficiaries of visa facilitation among others to representatives of civil society organisations, and a broader spectrum of family members. Long-term multiple-entry visas would be foreseen in more cases than under the present agreement and wider groups of visa applicants would benefit from visa fee waivers. The present visa facilitation agreement entered into force in 2007. It provides EU and Russian citizens with a lower visa fee, wider issuance of multiple-entry visas as well as simplified requirements for supporting documents.
EU and Russia have a common interest to jointly address global security challenges. Regular Political Dialogue meetings on a wide range of foreign policy issues are therefore an essential element in EU - Russia relations. The aim is to improve and intensify cooperation between the two parties, but also in existing multilateral formats, the Council of Europe said.