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Russia, EU leaders meet to boost ties

06-05-2012 01:44 BJT

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Union leaders have met for a summit in St. Petersburg on Monday. The Russian President said the visa-free talks between Russia and the EU should not be a political issue, but rather an economic and humanitarian affair. However, the two parties are expected to split over the handling of the crisis in Syria.

This is the first summit with the EU since Putin reclaimed the Russian presidency last month. The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, and the EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, will all be trying to gauge Putin’s attitude towards the EU as he enters a new 6-year term.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, European Union Commission President Jose
Manuel Barroso, right, and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy walk together
during the Russia EU Summit at the Konstantin palace in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday,
June 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Putin highlighted trade cooperation between Russia and EU. Vladimir Putin said, "We are interested in the strong European Union as it’s always been. Let me remind you once again, around 50 percent of our trade is with the EU. By the way, just very recently, a couple of years ago, more than 50 percent of all Russian trade was with the European Union countries. Now this number has decreased to below 50 percent, about 48-49 percent, but still it’s very important."

Among many topics is a visa-free travel regime pushed forward by Moscow. Russia joined the World Trade Organization late last year, binding it to global rules, but the EU wants the Kremlin to lower barriers for Western companies and investment by curbing corruption and improving the rule of law.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C), President of the European Commission Jose Manuel
Barroso (R) and Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, walk to pose for
a picture during the Russia-EU summit near Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna in St.
Petersburg June 4, 2012.

But EU is still open to the proposal and says the "constructive dialogue" on visa-free talks should continue.

President Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission, said, "We are the biggest source of foreign direct investment in Russia, the biggest client of your biggest export and it is energy. And we share a common interest in living in a peaceful and stable neighbourhood, and in multilateral rules-based international system. In recent years we achieved much progress in our bilateral relations, working for Russia’s WTO accession, with our partnership for modernisation, with the common steps for a visa-free dialogue."

The crisis in Syria may overshadow talks on trade and other issues at the twice-yearly summit. Moscow has blunted Western efforts to condemn President Bashar al-Assad and push him from power. However, both Russia and Europe still have hope in Kofi Annan’s U.N.-backed peace plan to end 15 months of bloodshed.



Editor:Zhang Dan |Source: CNTV.CN

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