23rd Mar 2019

EU foreign chiefs to debate future ties with Russia

Just weeks before the new Russian president is sworn in, EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brdo, Slovenia on Friday (28 March) for an informal debate on the remaining differences in opinion on the bloc's future strategy towards Moscow.

The 27-member EU is due to hold its first top level summit with Dmitry Medvedev, the incoming successor of Vladimir Putin, in June in Siberia and the EU's Slovenian presidency wants to focus the first day of the ministerial session on political preparation for the summit.

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  • The EU is still at odds over its relationship with Russia (Photo: EUobserver)

Some EU member states would like to move on in relations with Moscow and launch talks on the bloc's strategic partnership with Russia covering trade, energy, human rights and political cooperation, delayed primarily due to resistance by Poland and Lithuania.

Warsaw has in the meantime suggested it is willing to drop its opposition to the talks after Moscow agreed to end an embargo on Polish exports of meat and meat products.

But along with Vilnius – which objects to warmer relations with Russia due to energy security concerns - Warsaw is also expected to raise the issue of Moscow's involvement in the "frozen conflicts" in Moldova and Georgia, and human rights concerns.

The debate on the EU's future links with Russia comes just days before several European leaders meet in Bucharest next week for a NATO summit which risks being overshadowed by a dispute on how to prevent a further cooling down in relations with Moscow.

The Alliance is split on whether to boost the candidacy status of two membership aspirants - Ukraine and Georgia - with the Russian president-elect Medvedev warning against the move.

Tibet and Western Balkans

Europe's reaction to the Chinese clampdown on demonstrations in Tibet also features on the two-day ministerial agenda.

It is expected that the foreign ministers will criticise Beijing's actions in the violent clashes in the region in a joint statement on Saturday.

But a question mark remains over whether European politicians will boycott the opening and closing ceremony of the Olympic games due to concerns over Tibet, with French leader Nicolas Sarkozy already having mooted the idea.

The foreign ministers will also hold separate meetings with their colleagues in the Western Balkans, including Serbian minister Vuk Jeremic.

Belgrade is currently preparing for early elections in May in which Serbian citizens are due to effectively decide whether they want to stick with efforts to join the EU despite Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence in February. Most European countries have since recognised the move by the former Serb province.

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