Monday

18th Feb 2019

EU-Russia summit to focus on climate and energy

Global warming and energy security are to dominate the EU-Russia summit next week. But Sweden is also keen to raise the more painful topics of North Caucasus and Georgia violence at the talks.

EU delegates at the lunchtime meeting in Stockholm on 18 November are to urge Russia to move far beyond its current promise to cut CO2 emissions by just 10 to 15 percent by 2020.

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  • Russia's Dmitry Medvedev (c) with EU leaders at celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and EU commission head Jose Manuel Barroso are also keen to ask Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to give clear political assurances that any fresh price disputes with Ukraine will not see gas cut-offs to EU states.

The summit priorities, set out in an internal EU document to be approved by foreign ministers next week, come less than one month before the Copenhagen climate change summit and amid rumblings of another gas crisis this winter.

The EU is keen for developed countries to pledge emissions cuts of 20 to 30 percent in the Danish capital next month.

Meanwhile, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday (11 November) repeated threats that he will reduce gas supplies to EU transit state Ukraine if it does not make payments promptly.

Lower down the agenda, the Swedish EU presidency plans to tell Russia that its idea of joining the World Trade Organisation in a bloc with Kazakhstan and Belarus will seriously delay membership and undermine confidence at a time when foreign investment in Russia has dived by 45 percent over the past six months.

None of the three agenda items are expected to lead to a binding deal in Stockholm, with the potential summit "deliverables" limited to re-launching an Early Warning Mechanism on energy cut-offs, a pact on sharing classified information and new funding for cross-border programmes.

Sweden also wants EU foreign ministers to give it the green light to talk about assassinations of human rights campaigners and Moscow's non-compliance with French-brokered peace accords in Georgia.

The post-summit press briefing is likely to contain boilerplate EU statements about the need to respect human rights and rule of law.

But behind the scenes, Sweden wants to know more details about escalating violence in North Caucasus, the unpunished murders of prominent charity workers and journalists and Russia's covert military build up in occupied Georgian territory.

Havel plea for EU values

The summit venue was almost moved from Stockholm to Brussels during preparatory talks earlier this year, due to Russia's dislike of Sweden's harsh criticism of its invasion of Georgia in 2008.

The EU-Russia meeting comes at a time of sensitive recollections for many people in one-time Communist and Soviet EU countries.

Czech former president and dissident Vaclav Havel in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday on the occasion of the end of the Iron Curtain 20 years ago urged the EU to remain on guard against creeping authoritarianism today.

"We need to show clear and unequivocal solidarity with anyone anywhere in the world confronted by a totalitarian or authoritarian government," he said.

Mentioning the murders of journalists in a clear allusion to recent events in Russia, he added: "If people stop talking about these things, it's not a real partnership anymore because its based on duplicity."

Rights watchdog warns MEPs on Morocco trade deal

MEPs are set to rubber-stamp a trade deal with Morocco to fish off the disputed coastline of the Western Sahara. Human Rights Watch have stepped in to point out the deal could be in breach of international law.

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