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Meeting in Brussels to discuss the global financial crisis,
Meeting in Brussels to discuss the global financial crisis, the 27 EU leaders held separate debates about relations with Russia.

Relations have deteriorated because of Moscow's intercession in Georgia's attack of South Ossetia two months ago. Russia, however, is not making a drama of the EU's failure to agree on Russian-European partnership negotiations.

France, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, insisted on continuing talks with Russia. Paris and Berlin appreciated Russian peacekeepers' timely withdrawal from Georgia. Italy even suggested that Russia should become a member of the European Union. For all that, the parties didn't manage to arrive at consensus.

The "opposition," represented by Great Britain, Poland, the Baltic countries, Denmark, Sweden and the Czech Republic, considered it premature to improve relations with Russia and suggested monitoring the developments in the Caucasus.

As a result, the EU debate was postponed until November 10, which means it will be held four days before the Russia-EU summit in Nice, France, at the foreign minister level.

"We don't take it as a tragedy. If the European Union needs more time to prepare for talks, we have patience. It took the EU a year and a half to prepare to launch the talks, after all," Russia's EU envoy, Vladimir Chizhov, stated during a video link between Moscow and Brussels.

The new Russia-EU agreement is to replace the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which expired in late 2007, but was automatically extended.

At the emergency summit on Georgia in Brussels on September 1, EU leaders decided to suspend negotiations on a new basic agreement between Russia and the European Union, as a sign of support for Georgia.

Initially, it was Poland and Lithuania that blocked the launch of the talks, which finally started in Brussels on July 4.

According to Mr Chizhov, in November the matter of resuming talks with Russia will be considered along with a report on EU-Russia relations, which is now being prepared by the European Commission.

Both Moscow and its European partners need stable relationship, and they are aware of this. The EU accounts for over 50% of Russia's foreign trade. Russia ranks third (after the U.S. and China) among EU exporters (export volume totaled $197 billion in 2007), and fourth among those consuming EU production (EU imports to Russia amounted to $87 billion in 2007). At the same time Russia is the leading gas supplier to the EU, ranking second in oil and petroleum products supplies.

Europe depends on energy imports to such an extent that it reacts painfully to any global disturbances in this sphere. Europe imports over 80% of its oil and 75% of its gas. Analysts predict that in the near future the EU's dependence on energy imports will only increase.

In this situation it would be reasonable for Europeans to develop a partnership with Russia to ensure the energy security Europe needs so much. In other words, Europe's energy security depends on Russia, and it can be achieved only by building normal relations regardless of disagreements on some or other issues. Problems should be addressed during constructive negotiations, rather than resorting to "punishments" or demarches like freezing the talks on a new EU-Russia partnership agreement.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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