The thorny issues of energy supplies, human rights and immigration are high on the agenda at a two-day EU-Russia summit in Brussels.
Since their previous talks in June, the European Commission opened a probe into state gas firm Gazprom for alleged price-fixing.
EU diplomats are also concerned about the Kremlin’s crackdown on opposition figures, as Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for foreign affairs chief Catheine Ashton explained:
“The issue of human rights is on the agenda. You know that the European Union was vocal about many cases that we have seen in the recent past, be it from the case of Pussy Riot, to the several pieces of legislation that Russia has adopted.
The jailing of Pussy Riot drew criticism from rights campaigners worldwide.
In a pre-emptive move against further attacks, Russia has published a 66-page dossier detailing its own allegations of rights abuses in Europe.
“Well, let’s discuss the problems here in the EU,“said Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Special Representative for Human Rights. “The rise of xenophobia, agressive nationalism and the worsening problems in the treatment of minorities.”
The EU wants to simplify visa procedures for Russian citizens. But the bloc will not back Russia’s calls for visa-free travel right away.
A roadmap for such an agreement was signed last December but the differences between Moscow and Brussels means there’ll be no deal at this summit.