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The European Union and Russia could launch talks
The European Union and Russia could launch talks on a new partnership and cooperation agreement within the next six months, a senior European Union official said on Tuesday.

The latest Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Russia and the EU was signed on June 24, 1994 in Corfu, Greece. The document came into force on December 1, 1997, and expired at the end of November 2007.

Paul Vandoren, deputy head of the European Commission's delegation to Russia, told a news conference in Moscow that the EU hoped that negotiations on a new agreement would be launched during Slovenia's presidency. The Central European country holds the EU presidency from January to June 2008.

The Slovenian ambassador to Russia, Andrej Benedejcic, said his country planned to prioritize relations with Russia in this period.

"Slovenia's presidency considers Russia a strategic partner and holds the expansion and the enhancement of cooperation with Russia as a priority," the Slovenian diplomat said.

Pointing to some positive signals that have emerged of late, Vandoren said that a new framework agreement was currently being drafted to "upgrade the principles of our [the EU's] relations with Russia."

In November 2005, Russia imposed a ban on Polish meat and other agricultural produce over what it called the low quality of meat and other products imported by and via Poland.

The ban proved a major source of tension between Russia and Poland, which vetoed talks on a new Russia-EU partnership and cooperation agreement in protest against the embargo.

The two countries signed a memo of understanding to lift the embargo from the bulk of Polish meat supplies last December.

However, late in December, the EU expressed its concern over the Russian-British dispute following Russia's ban on regional offices of the U.K.'s cultural arm, the British Council.

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