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European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood
Debate on EU/Russia Summit Preparation
Honourable Members, with a new Russian President in place, and our mandate to negotiate a New Agreement with Russia agreed, we have the opportunity to redefine this essential partnership with our largest neighbour, based on a number of common interests. Getting the EU/Russia relationship right is one of the most important challenges in European Foreign Policy today.
The launch of negotiations will be the centrepiece of the EU-Russia Summit at the end of June. The negotiators will hold their first session shortly afterwards.
The New Agreement between the EU and Russia gives us the chance to update the legal framework underpinning our relationship to reflect the substantial changes in both Russia and the EU since the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was negotiated in the early 1990s. I believe that it will help us unlock the potential of this relationship, and to pursue the interests of our Member States more vigorously.
The hallmarks should be: results-oriented political co-operation, deep economic integration, a level playing field for our energy relations enshrining the principles of the Energy Charter Treaty, and ever closer relations in the field of freedom, security, and justice, as well as progressive opening of our educational and scientific systems to each other.
At the same time we should continue to implement cooperation with Russia under the four common spaces and their road maps. They comprise a wide range of actions giving concrete expression to our strategic partnership. The New Agreement should provide the legal framework to build on these for the future.
The Summit will also be an opportunity to hear at first hand where President Medvedev sees Russia’s priorities with the European Union. While there will clearly be strong continuity of policies in Russia, the new President has stressed his commitment to the rule of law and the modernisation of the Russian economy. We should encourage him to match his words with action.
Honourable members, while we pursue our common interests with Russia, we must nevertheless remain clear and firm on democracy and human rights. We will continue to remind Russia of the commitments we both have signed up to, notably in the context of the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
We are often close partners with Russia in tackling international challenges, for example as members of the Middle East Quartet and we shall no doubt be working together in Berlin; but we need to see a Russia, too, that pursues a positive agenda with its other neighbours. We are concerned that recent Russian moves in Georgia could undermine stability in the region. During my visit to Moscow, I had a long conversation with FM Lavrov in which I discussed this important issue.
We should gradually establish with Russia a continuous, high-level, non-confrontational dialogue covering all aspects of conflict resolution, including peacekeeping and peace mechanisms aspects, since Russia will clearly remain an essential actor in any peace efforts regarding the frozen conflicts.
On the other hand, it is natural that Tbilisi is seriously concerned about maintaining its territorial integrity. In the Summit discussion on frozen conflicts, we will firmly underline that Georgian and Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected by all.
But we also need a pragmatic, realistic and inclusive approach from the Georgian side. In my regular contacts with both Georgia and Russia I am urging pragmatism and an end to the setting of mutually exclusive conditions.
In conclusion let me say that the EU-Russia Summit is a chance to embark on a constructive relationship with the new administration, defending our values and promoting common interests. I look forward to our discussions with the new President in this spirit.