Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP, Minister for Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Chairman

  The 17th EU-Russia Summit took place on 25 May in Sochi, Russian Federation. The EU side was led by the Austrian Presidency represented by Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, the High Representative for CFSP Javier Solana, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. The Russian side was led by President Vladimir Putin.

  The Summit made some substantive progress in the EU-Russia relationship. The two main Summit outcomes were the approval of visa facilitation and readmission agreements between the EU and Russia; and agreement on the basis for negotiations on a Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) successor. The visa facilitation agreement does not apply to the UK as a non-Schengen country, but the UK will benefit from the readmission arrangements. The PCA is the legal framework document for EU-Russia relations. It expires in 2007, though it can be rolled forward. The EU and Russia are keen to see a new agreement to reflect changes since the PCA was first signed.

  The Summit had frank discussions on areas important to the UK. The latest round of the EU-Russia Human Rights Consultations was welcomed. Discussion on Chechnya was particularly noted. On the common neighbourhood, the EU expressed the hope for progress on Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus, though the Russian side was less optimistic. We were pleased to see final agreement on the EU's aid package to the North Caucasus, the proposal announced at the UK Presidency's EU-Russia Summit last year.

  The EU stressed its concerns on Belarus and Moldova. On this issue more than any other, the Russians defended their policy of engagement with Belarus. Russia was critical of the steps taken by the EU border assistance mission on the Moldova/Transnistria-Ukraine border to reduce smuggling as creating undue pressure.

  There were detailed discussions on energy, the EU noting continuing concerns in Europe stemming from the January Russia/Ukraine gas dispute interruptions. Russia in response stressed their reliability as a supplier, although they did not agree to EU proposals to ratify the Energy Charter Treaty.

  There were discussions of a number of other international issues such as Kosovo and Iran. The Russians raised the Kosovo process as a possible precedent over questions of territorial integrity, including for the South Caucasus states' frozen conflicts. The EU underlined its view of Kosovo's unique situation.

  The incoming Finnish Presidency has put the EU's relations with Russia as one of their priorities. We welcome this focus. We will continue to sustain the focus on commitment to common values such as democracy, human rights, and respect for OSCE and Council of Europe principles.

21 June 2006

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