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Brussels, 5 February 2009

President Barroso and nine members of the Commission head to Moscow for meetings with the Russian Government

On 6 February, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, and nine Members of the European Commission (Vice-Presidents G. Verheugen, J. Barrot, S. Kallas, and A. Tajani; and Commissioners S. Dimas, J. Almunia, B. Ferrero-Waldner, A. Piebalgs, and C. Ashton) will go to Moscow to meet the Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and members of the Russian government. The purpose of this high-level meeting is to address important bilateral issues and to set out the strategic direction for EU-Russia relations in the coming years. In addition to pressing common concerns such as the current global economic crisis and the international climate change negotiations, the Commission and the Russian Government will discuss a wide array of crucial bilateral topics, including security of energy supplies, trade and border crossing issues.

Prior to the visit, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, said: “The continuing financial and economic crises as well as new security and energy challenges we face underline our inter-dependence. It is urgent to get this relationship to work to our best advantage, acknowledging our differences but also our values and common international commitments. I hope that together we can identify ways to strengthen the effectiveness of the EU-Russia partnership. I look forward to discussing how we can work together to build-up trust and make the EU-Russia relationship a more reliable partnership at all levels.”

Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner added: "The new agreement currently under negotiation is a chance for both sides to realise the full potential of our relationship, with well established ground rules in key areas. Russia is a crucial partner for the EU in international matters from climate change to the Middle East and Afghanistan but alongside these important topics we need also to maintain our channels of communication on issues where we do not agree, and notably our differing views on the respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. ".

Similar meetings between the Commission and the Russian Government took place in 2004 in Moscow and in 2005 in Brussels.

The global economic crisis and joint efforts to mitigate its effects on the EU and Russian economies are high on the agenda. So are the issues of energy relations and climate change. In addition to that, the two sides will assess the progress of the New Agreement negotiations and look for ways to ensure smooth and substantive talks in the coming months. It is the position of the Commission that the recent gas crisis has underlined the importance for the principles of the Energy Charter to be included in the energy chapter of the New Agreement. Russia’s WTO accession will also be discussed – the Commission believes it should be possible to make further progress on outstanding issues, and bring the process to a conclusion soon.

Over the years strong people-to-people links have grown between the European Union and Russia. The Commission together with the Russian government will look at how to further contribute to these links by developing exchange programmes, and by making it easier for people to travel to and from the EU and Russia.

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