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EU/Russia: European Commission Welcomes Accord, Sees More Work Ahead

European Commission President Barroso with Russian President Putin (file photo) Looking back at the EU-Russia summit which took place in Moscow yesterday, the European Commission praised its results as a success. However, the commission simultaneously announced another high-level meeting is needed in less than two months’ time to see how the agreement could be put into practice. The strategic partnership accord leaves open most issues on which the two sides disagree, offering instead a “road map” naming the issues but little in the way of solutions or timetables.

Brussels, 11 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Barely a day after the landmark EU-Russia summit that agreed a new strategic partnership agreement, the European Commission announced today that a further high-level meeting is needed to look into the implementation of the accord.

Francoise Lebail, a European Commission spokeswoman, said the meeting will take place in Brussels either in the last days of June or early July. It will bring together relevant commissioners led by the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and a Russian delegation of ministers headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.

Lebail said the meeting is needed to study ways of implementing the Moscow accord. “It will be a meeting that will take place in Brussels and whose objective is to implement in concrete terms the four spaces and the road maps on which we reached agreement at the summit," she said. "What is important is to put into practice the framework which we jointly agreed. Things must advance and advance quickly.”

Lebail did not explain why issues to do with implementation could not be settled at the Moscow summit yesterday. However, she described the result of the summit -- a strategic partnership agreement -- as an unqualified success.

“Our assessment of the summit is, obviously, extremely positive, because, as you know, agreement was reached on something which had been negotiated for two years, that is the four spaces that constitute the basis for the reinforced, strategic cooperation between the European Union and Russia,” Lebail said.

The EU-Russia strategic partnership encompasses four basic areas, or “spaces” -- the economy, external security, internal security, and science and culture.

EU officials have over the past months increasingly tended to refer to the accord as a series of “road maps,” indicating that instead of resolving problems, they identify ways of reaching solutions at a later date. Nevertheless, the document offers no timelines on the most acute issues between the EU and Russia. Nor does it suggest in a detailed way how they could be resolved.

Thus, under the heading “The Common Economic Space,” the accord only makes a fleeting reference to Siberian overflights, one of the most urgent EU concerns. The EU says Russia violates international aviation law by charging EU flight companies extra for using the Siberian airspace and has so far insisted Russia abolish the levy by 2013. Before the summit, EU officials noted Russia’s unwillingness to commit to this in writing -- and the final summit document simply says the “arrangements on the Siberian overflight modernization” will be addressed when Russia finalises its accession to the World Trade Organization.

Similarly, under internal security, the EU and Russia simply agree to conduct parallel negotiations on visa facilitation -- the easing of EU visa rules -- and an agreement on readmission committing Russia to taking back illegal migrants. This wording offers no indication as to whether Russia has agreed to decisively link the two issues as the EU demands.

Under external security, the EU managed to blunt a Russian attempt to clearly equate both sides’ attempts to integrate their neighbors. On the other hand, Russia succeeded in avoiding any direct references to a possible EU role in countries of the former Soviet Union.

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