‘Tough task ahead’ for EU-Russia talks

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Energy, trade, investment and security will be at the heart of EU-Russia partnership negotiations, according to Russian academic Andrei V. Zagorski. The expert, from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations, told EURACTIV Slovakia in an interview that he expected progress to be slow, but expressed optimism that the outcome would be successful.

Zagorski admitted that the EU-Russia relationship is “not going through the best time” at the moment, placing most of the blame on the Georgia crisis. 

But the academic remains upbeat that the negotiations would end with a positive outcome, due to significant “mutual interests” shared by the two partners. Indeed, there are several issues on which the two sides have “already found common ground,” according to Zagorski. 

Investment is one concern shared by both Europe and Russia, said the academic. “But both Western and Russian companies face difficulties in investing in Russia and the EU,” he lamented, underlining the need for “reciprocal moves on regulation” to remove barriers to investment. 

The issue is particularly acute in the energy sector, where Russian companies like Gazprom are prevented from investing in the EU by “often prohibitive legislation,” making “reciprocal investing difficult”, he pointed out. 

There is a substantial “difference in approach” regarding the level of detail required for a new agreement, said Zagorski. Moscow would prefer to “speedily” negotiate a “pretty short” agreement, which would lay out basic principles of cooperation, but leave specifying the details of cooperation to sectoral agreements.

Zagorski suggested that Russia “doesn’t want any conditions” on issues like human rights attached to the agreement, but would rather focus on “cooperating” on these issues. 

But he reiterated that while visions differ, Russia and the EU “share a common vision to move forward”.

To read the interview in full, please click here.  

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