The EU – Russia Summit Meeting

On 18 November 2009, the 24th EU – Russia Summit was held in Stockholm, where some important issues of global policies and the interaction between Russia and the EU in the framework of a comprehensive dialogue in the political, commercial and economic, and humanitarian spheres were discussed.

The first phase of the negotiations addressed the issues of economics. One of the key issues in this respect was the question of how Russia was going to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) in connection with the creation of the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which was to come into force from 1 January 2010.

In Europe, the creation of the Customs Union has given rise to some speculations relating to Russia’s loss of interest in joining the WTO. Some suggested that the Customs Union had been created as a pretext for refusing to further participate in that process.

The Russian side assured its European partners that joining the WTO will remain Russia’s priority. Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus will continue the process of joining the Organization on an individual basis, but will synchronize their efforts.

The prospects of Russia’s joining the WTO worry the European Union also because these are associated with the negotiations in respect of the Base Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between Russia and the EU which expired in December 2007. It will be reasonable to continue the discussion on the Agreement after Russia becomes a WTO member.

The recent speech of RF President D. Medvedev concerning the modernization of the Russian economy was positively received by Europeans, and so the prospects of further development of relations in the commercial sphere were discussed at the summit meeting. Finland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Strubb has recently urged Europe to ‘reset’ its relations with the Russian Federation, following the USA’s example.

Among other themes there are the climate change and the overcoming of the consequences of the financial crisis. The parties’ attention was drawn to some promising ‘growth point’ in the partnership relations – such as the switchover to visa-waiver regimes with regard to individuals’ visits to the other countries, the interaction in crisis regulation, and growth of the scope of cooperation in the energy sphere.

Within the framework of the EU – Russia Summit, a number of agreements on cross - border cooperation in the amount of more than 370 million Euro were signed. The signed documents include the inter-government agreement on the financing and implementation of the South-Eastern Finland - Russia cross – border cooperation program, the Russian party to which is represented by the city of St. Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast and Karelia. To these purposes, 18 million Euro will be allocated from the RF federal budget, and 36.1 million Euro – from the EU budget.

It was decided that the Estonia – Latvia – Russia cross - border cooperation program would be supported by the EU. The measures envisaged by it will be participated in by the city of St. Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast and Pskov Oblast. The Russian Federation’s financial contribution will be 15.9 million Euro, that of the European Union – 47.7 million Euro.

Besides, the agreement on the Lithuania – Poland – Russia cross – border cooperation program was signed, one of its main participants being Kaliningrad Oblast. In that document it is stated, among other things, that it has been prepared in order to develop bilateral and three-lateral relations between Russia and these countries. The costs of the program’s implementation, as envisaged in the RF federal budget, will be 43.9 million Euro, those covered by the EU – 132.1 million Euro.

Among the other documents approved at the Summit there are the agreement on implementing the Kolarctic cross – border cooperation program aimed at developing multilateral cooperation between Finland, Norway, Sweden and the RF. The RF’s contribution is envisaged to be in the amount of 14.12 million Euro, that of the EU – in the amount of 28.24 million Euro.

Besides, the RF and the EU consolidated their agreement on funding the Karelia cross – border cooperation program in the amount of 11.6 million Euro and 23.2 million Euro respectively.

In the adopted documents it is further specified that all the proposed decisions are focused on maintaining cross – border economic development and on creating effective and safe borders, as well as on providing solutions to the issues of improving the material well-being of the population of those territories.

N. P. Volovik, Head of the Depatrtment for Foreign Trade