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Long-awaited EU-Russia talks face possible suspension

Long-awaited EU-Russia talks face possible suspension
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In June, the EU and Russia finally set a date to open negotiations on a new partnership
and cooperation agreement. But now, former Soviet states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, strong supporters of Georgia in its conflict with Russia, want the next round of talks postponed beyond September.

The relationship hinges largely on the future of energy supplies, and reciprocal involvement in both sides’ sectors.

Moscow’s ambassador to Brussels, Vladimir Chi-zhov, said Russia will happily keep selling oil and gas to Europe: “It’s not that Russia seeks exclusive control of all the pipelines. We understand that Europe will need much more energy than it does now. Perhaps from different sources. Whatever requests are filed with the Russian side are promptly executed by the Russian companies. In the longer term of course we will certainly look forward to increasing cooperation with our European customers.”

Yet no matter how dependent the EU countries are on their powerful provider, Poland is also adamant about exacting proper behaviour.

EU Parliament member Jacek Saryusz-Wolski insisted that global political and economic considerations are inextricable: “We need Russia, we need good as possible cooperation with them, but based on civilised European, international standards. Our economic interest is to have rules imposed and rules respected. This is also true for those who are interested in ongoing energy cooperation and security — buying gas and oil. Clearly, the situation in the South Caucuses puts a threat to energy security. (It threatens) the security of European companies’ investments in gas and oil pipelines there. So the two – security and economic points of view – converge (and do) not diverge.”

If Europe does exert any pressure on Moscow, soft pressure would be safer, such as perhaps stalling on a promise to allow visa-free travel to and within the EU for Russian passport holders. The next EU-Russia summit is scheduled for November 14.