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  Saturday, April 4, 2020
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Russia and the European Union are not experiencing a crisis in their relations
Russia and the European Union are not experiencing a crisis in their relations, a senior Kremlin official said Wednesday, although he admitted a new strategic cooperation deal with the EU would not be signed this year. The EU has delayed talks on the agreement, which was to be a central issue at a summit in the city of Samara on the Volga May 17-18, over opposition from some former Communist-bloc states, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia. "Like Mark Twain who said 'the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated,' we can say that reports of a crisis have been exaggerated to say the least," said Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Russian president's aide for relations with the EU. Moscow's disputes with the three EU countries - over a ban on Polish food imports, a bitter row over the removal of a Soviet war memorial from the center of the Estonian capital, and Lithuania's demands to restart oil supplies via a Soviet-era pipeline - have overshadowed the coming summit. This prompted Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, the current EU president, to briefly visit Russia Tuesday in an attempt to defuse the situation at talks with Vladimir Putin. Tensions have also arisen following Washington's proposals to deploy missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. "These problems will obviously be discussed at the summit in Samara, but saying they testify to a crisis in our relations with the EU is certainly an exaggeration... "Relations between Russia and the EU have been developing rather smoothly," the Kremlin official said. Yastrzhembsky said the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which expires in December, would not be signed in 2007 after Poland extended its November 2006 veto on the talks. "Of course, a new extensive agreement will not be signed this year," Yastrzhembsky said, but added this would not create legal vacuum in relations with the EU. Speaking of progress in cooperation with the 27-nation alliance, Yastrzhembsky said a provisional agreement to cut charges for European airliners using Russian airspace over Siberia, which had cost air companies over $300 a year, would be signed shortly. He also said Russia and the EU had ratified agreements on readmission and to facilitate visa regulations, which would come into force in June, and Russia planned to pursue visa-free travels to Europe.
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