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EU, Russia Stress Goodwill, But Divisions Remain

  • Ulrich Speck

The EU's Jose Manuel Barroso (left) and Russia's Vladimir Putin faced off in Moscow.

The EU's Jose Manuel Barroso (left) and Russia's Vladimir Putin faced off in Moscow.

BRUSSELS -- At a joint press conference in Moscow with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso underlined the EU's determination to deepen its relationship with Russia.

Both sides, he said, are dependent on each other.

"Russian energy supplies are essential to Europe. At the same time the Russian economy also benefits from our investments, our strong demand, our high technology for its modernization," Barroso said. "We have to make this interdependence positive in the eyes of our citizens."

Barroso said the war in Georgia war and the recent crisis involving Russian natural-gas exports piped through Ukraine "did nothing to improve" those relations.

But he added that the goal of the visit was not to discuss Georgia or Ukraine, but to look forward to closer cooperation in the future.

Barroso is in Moscow to discuss the framework for that cooperation, which he said is essential for Europe's energy security.

"The recent gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine shows that the new agreement should enshrine robust rules on energy security," Barroso said. "And we are also looking at some ideas put forward by Russia regarding a possible international agreement on energy security."

The EU chief also said that the EU monitors who were sent to oversee the gas transit would remain in Russia and Ukraine.

Putin Rebuffs EU 'Concerns'

Other issues on the agenda were climate change, macroeconomic policies, and trade. Barroso said Europe is an enthusiastic supporter of Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

The human rights situation in Russia also came up, and Barroso told reporters that the EU is concerned about the recent murders of Anastasia Baburova, a journalist with "Novaya gazeta," and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov.

Putin responded that "Russia is ready to discuss any issues and any problems, including the whole range of issues related to [the rule of] law and freedoms. And we hope these problems will be discussed in a comprehensive manner."

But he added that Russia is "still not satisfied with the way problems with the Russian-speaking minority are addressed in the Baltic states. We know about the violations of the rights of migrants in European countries. We know about the situation in the penitentiary systems of certain European countries."

Barroso brought nine commissioners with him to Moscow, including Commissioner and Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen, Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton, External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The talks are seen as an attempt by the EU to mend fences following increased tensions after the Russian-Georgian war and disruption of gas supplies through Ukraine.