As expected, Russia has announced the start of long-delayed talks on a new partnership pact with the EU at the conclusion of a summit in Siberia.
Russia’s new president Dmitry Medvedev, who appeared a more willing partner than his predecessor Vladimir Putin, stressed cooperation in his opening remarks: “I’d like to point out that one of the major topics discussed recently was the question of concluding a new EU-Russia agreement and today we can officially declare the launch of negotiations to work out a new pact,” said Medvedev.
The negotiations, which were delayed by 18 months, will tackle a range of issues including political cooperation, immigration, trade and especially energy – a question of utmost importance to Europe.
European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said: “Energy accounts for two thirds of our imports from Russia in value. Let me be very clear on one thing: Russia will remain a key energy supplier for the European Union and the European Union will remain Russia’s most important export market.”
A first round of talks is scheduled for next week in Brussels. But while relations have warmed between the two, disagreements remain over a range of issues including Kosovo, Abkhazia, and US plans for an anti-missile shield in Europe – questions, which it is hoped, will not stop the talks from moving ahead.