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". Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, honourable Members, in view of the somewhat unsatisfactory state of relations between Russia and the European Union, the Commission thinks it necessary that a number of remarks be made in this debate about principles. I would like, at this point, to say something about the debate that you have just had in this House on crisis in relations between Russia and Estonia; since many speakers described what had happened, I do not need to repeat it, but Estonia, in any conflict or dispute with Russia, can rely on the solidarity of its partners in the European Union and on that of the EU’s institutions, which, I do believe, has been demonstrated. This solidarity needs to be maintained in the event of any further interference in Estonia’s internal affairs, whether through cyber-attacks or calls by delegations from the Duma for the resignation of the Estonian prime minister. Never again will we allow anyone to attempt to drive a wedge between the European Union and one of its Member States. What is evident from this crisis is the way in which the wars of Europe’s past continue to cast their shadows over us, with all Europe’s peoples having their own experience of history and their own ways of getting to grips with them, and one can always only hope that they do this with respect for the experiences of others, because, where views diverge, the only thing that actually helps is talking – nothing else works. The summit offers an opportunity to inject new life into the process of Russia’s accession to the WTO, an objective that is certainly in the interests of both sides, and of which the EU is a leading advocate. As regards energy, it will see us striving to achieve agreement on the establishment of an early-warning and consultation mechanism that will ensure that information on the risk of potential interruptions to energy supplies will be exchanged early enough to avoid a supply crisis, with the transit countries being involved in this wherever necessary. The summit should also see agreement being reached on the prioritisation of action to deal with climate change; it is important that Russia should approve and set in motion joint implementation projects with investors from the European Union under the Kyoto Protocol, and we also want to pave the way for our cooperation at the Bali conference in December in getting international negotiations started on a comprehensive climate agreement for the post-2012 era. It is in our common interest that countries that produce a great deal of pollution – the USA, China and India, for example – should be involved in this important negotiating process so that the global challenge can be faced. Russia is an important partner when it comes to the resolution of problematic foreign policy issues, and it is likely that discussion of international issues at the summit will focus on the subjects of Kosovo, Iran and the Middle East, long-term solutions to which are dependent on both sides making constructive contributions in the relevant multilateral fora. In our dealings with Russia as a neighbour, we want to make it plain that the Republic of Moldova and Georgia are neighbours to the European Union, and our interest in finding solutions to these conflicts – which are described as ‘frozen’ – is greater than ever; this will require cooperation by Russia, the EU, and many of the latter’s Member States within international frameworks, and it is our especial hope that progress will be made concerning Transnistria and Nagorno-Karabakh. I would like to stress once more that the Commission remains committed to a policy of constructive cooperation with Russia as a strategic partner and neighbour, a policy that must be founded on common interests and values. We believe that it is in Russia’s own rational interests to cooperate constructively on this basis not only with the European Union but also with its Member States. Firstly, Russia is our number one strategic partner in Europe. Secondly, we have every interest in Russia being a stable and reliable partner to us, just as we also want to be that sort of partner to it. Thirdly, we are persuaded that our partnership can grow best if it is supported by both sides in an unambiguous commitment to democracy, the rule of law and human rights and the constant effort to make them a reality. Fourthly, our dealings with our neighbours and with other peoples outside Europe are not value-free; on the contrary, they are founded upon the values on which we have agreed and which we have systematised; that is why Europe has become a continent of hope for so many outside our own borders, and we want to keep it that way. The summit is being held at a crucial juncture, when Moscow, with its mind on the imminent elections to the State Duma and to the Presidency, is concentrating on the smooth handing over of power, and that is why relations with the West in general and the EU in particular have got stuck in a difficult rut. We take quite different lines on many items on the current agenda – the future of Kosovo, the anti-missile shield and Europe’s conventional armed forces for example – and all of these issues are, at the moment, close to the top of the agenda, together, of course, as so often, with the security of energy supply to all Member States of the European Union. A situation such as this demands that we should not lose sight of the European Union’s longer-term interests in its relations with Russia, for not only are we neighbours with a long shared history behind us, but we are also dependent on one another in many respects, in that we are by far and away Russia’s biggest export market, while it is our principal supplier of energy; no major foreign policy issue in Europe can be resolved without our common consent, and for that we need constant and constructive dialogue within which we can make a determined case for our own interests and values, while at the same time having to work towards consensus. At the summit, we will continue to strive to get negotiations started on a new agreement between the EU and Russia as a replacement for the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that is currently in place. Both parties should have a strong common interest in such an agreement, which can and should lift our relationship to a new and higher level, making it possible for them to develop fully. The Commission has worked very hard at getting the Russians to lift their ban on the import of Polish meat and vegetable products, and I would like to say, further to that, that the Commission takes the view that the Russian import ban is disproportionate and unjustified, so what we now expect of Russia is an unambiguous and constructive signal in the shape of a clear timescale for the complete cessation of these measures, even though this may well have to involve several steps. The summit will not draw a line under this, but forms part of a long development, and we will continue to work towards the progress in the establishment of the common areas on which we agreed so many years ago. The summit will also be an occasion on which we will have to express our concern as to the state of human rights and the rule of law in Russia. A great deal was said, at last week’s human rights consultations between the EU and Russia, about the restrictions placed on the freedom of the media and the attacks on journalists, the hampering of non-governmental organisation and opposition politicians and the situation in Chechnya and the Northern Caucasus; it is particularly significant that Russia is inviting OSCE observers to the elections. Free expression of opinion, freedom of association and of assembly are cornerstones of democracy, by which I mean democracy without further qualifying attributes, and we expect Russia, as a member of the family of democratic nations, to guarantee them."@en1

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