Russia : summit set to tackle energy and future ties
Energy and the future foundations for EU-Russia ties are set to be among the priority themes at the 25 May EU-Russia summit in Sochi. EU Foreign Ministers are due to discuss the summit preparations on 15 May in Brussels, and according to a draft state-of-play document setting out the EU's objectives seen by Europolitics, actual deliverables' may be thin on the ground.
The main concrete step could be the signature of EU-Russia deals on visa facilitation (on easing visa procedures) and readmission (on taking back illegal immigrants), although this is still to be confirmed. It seems there will be no official summit declaration and not even a joint press statement, leaving perhaps only a short press declaration by the EU side.
On energy - where the two sides have appeared not to be seeing eye-to-eye recently - the EU side should express its readiness to enhance ties based on reciprocity in terms of access to markets, infrastructure, investment and environmental aspects, as well as transparency and openness to competition. It wants to stress the strategic importance of energy for security and stability on the European continent, as well as to call for concrete results during Russia's chairmanship of the G8 on ratification of the Energy Charter Treaty.
With the current contractual basis for EU-Russia relations - the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement - coming up for review, summiteers are due to discuss the post-2007 basis for their ties. Judging by the state-of-play paper, this may involve a new contractual accord «including the perspective of enhanced trade and economic integration once Russia has joined the WTO». The EU is set to express support for Russia's early WTO accession but among other things refer to the need to resolve the question of Siberian overflight fees before Russia joins the world trade body.
The EU will be ready to take note of progress made in implementing four so-called «common spaces» of EU-Russia cooperation. But the summit may also see other more awkward points raised. The EU could seek from Russia «a renewed commitment» on, and practical steps showing the country's attachment to common values including democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Concerns about human rights in Chechnya could be raised.
Russia may be asked to ratify border agreements with Estonia and Latvia and begin demarcating its border with Lithuania, in the interests of the legal certainty of the EU's eastern frontiers. While international cooperation and Russian readiness to discuss its «common neighbourhood» with the EU may be welcomed, the EU is poised to express concern about Russia's assessment of the situation in Belarus and its support for President Lukashenko. Other foreign policy matters are likely to come up.
The summit is to be hosted by Russian President Putin and attended by EU figures including Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.