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New Russia-EU Partnership Talks Kick Off

Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov
The European Union and Russia held the first round of new partnership talks in Brussels today.

The talks were agreed by EU and Russian leaders at their June 26-27 summit in Khanty-Mansyisk. They are expected to take about a year and result in a new partnership accord.

Eneko Landaburu, the chief EU negotiator, stressed after the talks that an updated cooperation accord is long overdue.

Both Landaburu and the Russian negotiator, Moscow's Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov, said the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, concluded in 1994, no longer adequately reflects the scope of the cooperation between the two sides. In particular, Chizhov said, the EU's enlargement by 12 countries in 2004 and 2007 gave added urgency to attempts to negotiate a new accord.

The talks were first delayed as a result of a Polish-Russian trade dispute and then by last-minute Lithuanian objections.

'Basic Principles'

Chizhov today reiterated the Russian view that the new accord should be a short document confining itself to the basic principles of cooperation, which would be later complemented by specific agreements.

"The idea, at least how I expressed the idea of the Russian side, is to have a concise framework document, legally binding, which could be compared to the trunk of a tree whereupon branches would grow in the form of further sectoral agreements," Chizhov said.

The EU and Russian negotiators today agreed that the scope of the discussions will follow the concept of four "common spaces," agreed two years ago. The four spaces encompass external security, internal security, trade, and cooperation on science and education.

Energy is likely to be the main sticking point in the talks, although EU sources indicate Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had appeared open at the June summit to an EU request to insert into the new treaty key principles set down in the Energy Charter which remains unratified by Russia.

In particular, the EU wants Russia to give legal guarantees to its investors and open up its pipelines to foreign ownership.

In Focus -- Russia-EU