The Kremlin has opened its doors to the European Commission’s President José Manuel Barroso, who has met President Putin in Moscow for the first time. The two met to prepare the ground for the upcoming Russia-EU summit in the Russian capital on May the 10th. The first information to emerge from the meeting is that despite recent tensions the warming of Russia’s relations with Europe appears to be continuing, and President Putin remains committed to strong ties despite pressure from certain nationalists who want him to distance himself from the EU.
However it is still far from sure that Russia and the EU will manage to set up four common policy areas that they agreed to create in 2003. Barroso is hopeful, as negotiators have been working overtime to get four symbolic signatures for the May summit, in the fields of education, the economy, and domestic and foreign security. Visas, and some economic questions, remain problem areas.
The EU does appear to be soft-pedalling in one area, Chechnya, which is dropping down the list of priorities to bring up with the Russians, who insist the situation there is now “normalised”. For the first time since the crisis began, the EU has not presented a proposed resolution for the UN’s Human Rights commission to debate.