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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso at the press conference following the EU-Russia Summit
Brussels, 15 December 2011
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was indeed a very successful summit. This was a Summit of results where we made real progress on a number of issues of our bilateral agenda. We also had a very substantive discussion on issues of common interest from the political developments in Russia to the economic situation in the EU, and also on the prospects for the development of the global economy. Indeed, we share a truly Strategic Partnership and I am convinced that we can only gain from further deepening our cooperation. It is through frank, open, regular, constructive dialogue that we can achieve our common goals.
Last night we had a comprehensive exchange of views on the global economic situation and the latest developments regarding the euro area, as well as the political developments in Russia. I was really very happy with quality of the conversation.
During this Summit we also had the opportunity to celebrate the accession of Russia to the World Trade Organization which is officially scheduled to take place tomorrow. After 18 years of negotiations, this is a major achievement. Indeed, it opens new opportunities for trade and for the development of our bilateral economic relations which are already strong. In fact, despite of the economic situation, the trade of goods between the EU and Russia this year had very impressive results. Russia is EU's third largest trading partner and the EU is the first trading partner for Russia.
Let me take this occasion to tell you how pleased I am with the news coming today from Geneva. In fact negotiations in Geneva on renewed Government Procurement Agreement, so called GPA, were concluded successfully today between the EU and the other parties on an updated set of tender rules and additional market access commitments. This agreement, which Russia will also be able to join after its accession, is a significant contribution to the multilateral trading system which proofs the relevance of the WTO in particular in the current economic climate. This will lead to more trade and I believe will benefit to all economies including of course Europe's economy.
Today's summit was also an occasion to discuss how we can go further. I think we should bring our contractual links to a new level which is commensurate with the importance of our relations. I am convinced that with the strong commitment of both sides we will achieve in the future a balanced and ambitious agreement that will bring benefits to our citizens and also to the development of our economy and all kinds of relationships.
Our Partnership for Modernisation is now in a phase of full implementation and we continue to fully support it. After the partnership between the European Union and Russia, many of our Member States signed their own bilateral modernisation partnerships. We now have 23 modernisation partnerships. This is a clear signal that the European Union is Russia’s most important partner in modernisation. Modernisation to succeed must engage the most creative sectors of society and must be broad-based, including the civil society. We need to strengthen our cooperation in these areas.
But we are also engaged in building a partnership that goes beyond the relationship between the official authorities. It is important to have closer ties between our peoples. That is why I am also pleased to confirm that today we have launched the “Common Steps towards visa-free travel.” This decision has clear potential benefits to our citizens and for people-to-people contacts. In order to achieve real progress, the task ahead of us is to fully implement the agreed common steps which can lead to the opening of visa-waiver negotiations. I am confident that this process will continue in a positive direction. Our common goal is to have a visa-free regime between Russia and the European Union.
On energy, we welcomed the progress in the Energy Dialogue and the close EU-Russia energy partnership. I stressed that a reliable, transparent and rules-based energy framework applying to all operators, remains a key priority for the EU. We have very strong common interests with Russia, in energy and in many other fields.
This summit was, by the quality of the dialogue and by the constructive tone of the conversations, another testimony to this. I would like also to thank personally President Medvedev for his strong commitment to the Russia-European Union relationships and to thank him for what was, I believe, a very successful summit.
I thank you for your attention.