Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-10-24-Speech-3-049"

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"Mr President, Russia is not only a close neighbour, for us it is a strategic partner. If we look to trade and investment we see they are booming, and we also see, as our President has said, that interdependence is growing. But we also know that Russia is a key partner in tackling regional conflicts and global challenges – also mentioned here – and that much remains to be done to develop the full potential of our relationship. Russia is a key economic actor and, on WTO, I would like to add that we will help Russia’s efforts. You know we have always been committed to Russia’s WTO accession. We also think it is very important to have a level playing field, and that is why we will place so much emphasis on the completion of Russia’s accession to the WTO. The summit will give a new impetus to this complex process, which is at a critical stage. We shall be signing a new agreement on steel on the margins of the summit, thus increasing the quantities which Russia may export to the European Union. Another sign of positive elements in EU-Russia cooperation is the fact that the memorandum of understanding between the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction and the Russia Federal Drug Control Service is going to be signed on the margins of the summit. On a less positive note, I would like to inform you that, although there was a clear Russian commitment in Samara in May to finally sign our agreement on the Siberian overflights, in time for the next summit in Mafra, prospects for this happening seem to be very slim. We want to turn the page on this long-standing dispute. A positive move by Russia would then allow us also to go ahead with the aviation summit, planned to take place in Moscow in November, to identify the enormous potential for cooperation in this sector. As regards international issues, Kosovo will certainly be one of the most important and we need to consider jointly with Russia how to bring this question to a solution, based on the ongoing efforts of the Troika. We must avoid a renewed conflict in the Balkans. We will also discuss other important international issues such as the Middle East prior to the Annapolis Conference; Iran, following President Putin’s recent visit to Tehran and Afghanistan; Burma/Myanmar; and the situation with regard to the frozen conflicts particularly in Georgia and Moldova. We would like to work with Russia in a constructive spirit in the search for solutions for these vexed issues. Therefore, what we have to do is continue our ongoing work and never lose sight of our long-term projects. The upcoming summit on Friday is the next occasion to assess the state of our relationship. While several of the outstanding issues will not be solved, we will make progress on some others and thus will also prepare the ground for future work at this moment of transition. We know it is a critical period for Russia, a few months ahead of the crucial parliamentary and presidential elections, and we also know that the European Union has repeatedly expressed its concerns on the implementation of democratic principles and human rights commitments in Russia. We, the European Union, are watching developments very closely – the forthcoming elections will be an important test in that regard – and we expect Russia will make a sensible choice and invite the OSCE observers to monitor the elections. We shall also take the opportunity to raise our concerns on human rights issues, such as the limitations on press freedom, the attacks on journalists, the pressure on NGOs and also the situation in the northern Caucasus. I had the occasion to discuss the forthcoming summit with the President’s key advisor, the special envoy Mr Yastrzhembsky, when I was in Kaliningrad on 11 and 12 October. Let me start with a few good examples, but then say where we will not make progress. I believe that Russia is about to announce a major financial contribution to several EU-led cross-border cooperation programmes. This will be very welcome since cooperation across our developing borders is an important feature following the 2004 enlargement. And Kaliningrad is, of course, a very special case, due to its unique geographic location. This requires, as we have always found, special arrangements to facilitate cross-border cooperation and local border traffic. Russia’s financial contribution, however, would also be very timely, considering the very serious traffic congestion on borders between the Member States and Russia in Kaliningrad and at border crossing points with several Member States elsewhere. Lines of trucks of up to 50 km on the EU side of the border are clearly not acceptable. We need to implement the measures and therefore we have agreed with Russia to reduce the bottlenecks. We are just launching a pilot project in the Commission, exchanging customs information and financing modernisation of border infrastructure. For its part, Russia must streamline its procedures at the borders. In principle it is ready to do so but it takes a certain amount of time. Our President has already mentioned energy. I would just like to add that we should be able to announce an agreement on the early warning mechanism to deal with problems in supply before they come to crisis point. Our President has spoken about energy culture and also investments so I need not add anything here. I just would like to complement it by saying that investment and business relations will also be discussed at an industrialists’ round table in Lisbon, with the participation of Günter Verheugen and Andris Piebalgs, starting tomorrow, Thursday. This round table will then report its conclusions to the summit on Friday. I think this is a good contribution to what is really a growing business relationship."@en1
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