EU-Russia summit to focus on security, economy

By RIA Novosti,

Moscow : The European Union (EU)-Russia summit that opens Thursday will focus on steps to draft a European security treaty and ways of meeting global economic challenges, a Russian presidential aide said Wednesday.

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The two-day summit in Khanty-Mansiisk, western Siberia, is the first with the EU since Dmitry Medvedev won presidential elections in March. The summit is widely expected to lay the groundwork for talks on a long overdue comprehensive security cooperation pact.

Sergei Prikhodko said there would be discussions on drafting “a new legally binding agreement, a European security agreement that would fix specific principles for relations and mutual security commitments both on the part of states and organizations for the mid- and long-term.”

The leaders will also try to develop solutions to the global food crisis, soaring energy prices and climate change, he said.

“As for the crisis on the global food market, discussions at the summit could help create a powerful joint signal to the global market to prevent panic and further price hikes,” Prikhodko said.

The official described as strategic Russia’s plans to switch as soon as possible to a visa-free regime with the EU, saying the first results of an expert dialogue were optimistic.

“For us a quick transition to visa-free travel with European countries is a strategic task,” Prikhodko said. “This is not a slogan any more – everybody understands this is reality. This is one of the ways to expand contacts.”

Relations between Europe and Russia soured under Medvedev’s predecessor Vladimir Putin over a range of issues, including energy and democratic freedoms.

Talks on a new EU-Russia partnership and cooperation agreement were first postponed following Russia’s embargo on Polish meat. When the dispute was resolved, obstacles came from Lithuania, which demanded tougher terms concerning Russian energy supplies, judicial cooperation and Moscow’s policies in ex-Soviet countries such as Georgia.

On May 27, the EU approved a new negotiating mandate, heeding some of Lithuania’s demands.