The last European Union summit with Russia was hosted by France, and it was held on the Riviera, in Nice. For this year’s event, today and tomorrow, President Dmitri Medvedev felt the EU leaders would understand his country better if they got a taste of its eastern reaches. Almost 9,000 kilometres east of Nice is the summit venue, Khabarovsk. It is wrapped around the far side of China.
EU diplomats say expectations are low, that Medvedev replacing Putin as president has not brought friendlier dealings with Moscow, as European officials had hoped it would. Slowmoving talks on a new bilateral framework agreement are to be taken up, as well as discussion of the EU’s eastern partnership, launched this month — for cooperation with six ex-Soviet republics. Georgia is one of them, and EU moral support for it in last summer’s five-day war with the Russians will not have faded much from Moscow’s memory. Yet Nikolay Kobrinets, Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the EU, said: “We have no reason to either favour or fight against the partnership. If the countries which the partnership addresses are interested, so much the better. The only thing is, we don’t want these countries put before a completely artificial choice: Either you are with Russia or you are with the European Union.” The global economic crisis is up for discussion, with interlinked trade, security and energy matters. Russia was incensed when it was left out of an EU deal with Ukraine to upgrade pipelines, and it says it has important proposals on new legal foundations for energy sector cooperation.