The 30th Russia-EU summit that took place in Brussles on December 21st focused on issues ranging from energy and trade to visas. President Putin indicated progress in bilateral cooperation. Similar opinions were expressed by President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission Chairman Jose Barroso. The Voice of Russia’s Svetlana Andreyeva reports.
Even though the participants in the summit didn’t come to a final opinion on issues of primary concern, the negotiating process is going on. Russia and the EU are working on a new partnership and cooperation agreement and trying to come to agreement on visa-free travel. Now that all visa-related issues have been resolved in principal, Europe is lacking political will to put them into effect, President Putin said. It’s unclear why Latin Americans need no visas to visit the EU countries and Russians are still required to apply, Putin said.
"The EU has established a visa-free regime with Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and many other countries. A total of 40 countries, located thousands of kilometers from the EU, have a visa-free regime with it. On November 7th the European Commission proposed that a number of island states should be included in this list as well, including five Caribbean and 10 Pacific countries. Trade between Russia and the EU has amounted to nearly $400 billion. Lack of free communication hampers economic cooperation. Hopefully, talks on visa issues between Russia and the EU will continue and yield good results."
European Commission Chairman Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU was prepared to sign a new visa agreement with Russia. Visa-free travel was an issue of strategic importance, he added.
The Third Energy Package, approved by the EU three years ago, remains a stumbling block in Russia-EU relations. Russia is against one of the provisions of the package that says gas producing companies cannot control gas transit. The restrictions on the control of gas transportation grids that are imposed by the package could deprive Gazprom of its grip on gas infrastructure it built over the years. Putin criticized Brussels for trying to apply the provisions of the Third Energy Package to contracts that came into force before it was signed.
"The EU has the right to pass whatever decisions it finds appropriate. But it’s wrong to give these decisions retroactive effect. Once approved, a decision should apply to all deals that are clinched after its approval, not before. Making a decision applicable to previously signed deals wreaks havoc and undermines trust. I’m sure that Russia and the EU will arrive at a mutually beneficial solution concerning this issue."
Russia’s membership in the WTO should contribute to the development of bilateral ties as well. The EU should now abolish restrictions that impede trade with Russia. At present, the European Union accounts for nearly 50% of Russia’s trade but Russian exporters are ready to increase this. President Putin has no intention of politicizing old and new issues in relations with the EU. Instead, he hopes to get them sorted out in the near future.
As for the crisis in Syria, Vladimir Putin told the participants in the Brussels summit that Russia’s major concern was to prevent Syria from plunging into chaos, like other countries of the region did, just a short time ago.