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The European Union has drafted a routine report on its relations
The European Union has drafted a routine report on its relations with Russia enumerating problems that call for emergency or rapid action, and issues that will or should worry the EU in the near future.

Such reports are typically formatted as privileged information for EU leaders, who need to understand basic problems and also be aware of underlying causes to make appropriate measures.

This year EU Observer, an independent daily online newspaper providing news from around the European Union and from EU institutions, has obtained a copy of the report drafted for the conference of EU foreign ministers scheduled for November 10.

The ministers should formulate their recommendations for the EU-Russia summit, to be held in Nice on November 14, where a decision is expected on whether or not to resume talks with Russia on a new partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA), put on hold by the Caucasus war.

The previous PCA expired in 2007, and analysts say the EU needs a new treaty more than Russia, which can make do with the old one. Moreover, it would gain more from the old treaty, which does not stipulate compliance with EU rules.

The report, titled "Key outstanding issues for the EU in its relations with Russia," provides the agenda for the summit and a list of complaints against Russia.

It has smoothed over political "corners" (including those created by the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict last August), but its economic aspect concerns the "toxic" or "pathogenic" problems, the discussion of which, started at the EU-Russia summit in Khanty-Mansiisk last June, was stopped by the Caucasus war.

The road from the West Siberian city to the French resort town proved to be longer than expected. Judging by the report, Nice may turn out to be colder than Khanty-Mansiisk unless summit participants make the right decisions on gas and other energy resources for the EU.

The reasons for concern and the names of the "culprits" have not changed since the previous report. The EU thinks it is not Russia but Ukraine that can complicate gas problems for the Union, although Ukraine is not a member country.

"Disputes on terms of gas trade with Ukraine this year and developments in the investment climate of Russia's energy sector are a cause of growing concern. In spite of successive agreements reached by Russia and transit countries, there is no certainty which would preclude similar disruptions in future," the report says, recalling the Ukraine-Russia gas conflict in winter 2006.

At the heart of the issue lies Europe's vulnerability, since it depends on Russia for a third of its oil and 40% of its gas.

The report shows that Europe would like to change Russia's trade policy without changing its own. It mentions "Russian obstruction in trade matters," which is, in effect, a result of procrastination in admitting Russia to the World Trade Organization. Since Russia's compliance with such rules has not helped it to join the WTO, it has decided to stop abiding by them - for now.

Europe is unhappy about many things, including export tariffs on timber that are allegedly hurting EU forestry companies.

The report says the practice of forcing fishermen to unload catches in Russian ports is a form of "export restriction."

It also attacks tough limits on pesticide residues in EU meat exports as "disguised trade restrictions aimed at protecting Russian domestic production" and warns that new laws "could effectively ban imports of frozen meat and poultry into Russia."

The EU is angry over Russia's reluctance to sign an agreement ending Siberia overflight fees for EU airlines. The status quo costs European carriers 350 million euros a year and must change "prior to giving a green light to Russia's accession to the WTO," the report says.

The authors of the report say rampant counterfeiting and piracy are also "unacceptable" from the point of view of WTO admission, which is perfectly true.

The focus on trade reflects the Russian view of EU states such as Germany, France and Italy, which want to deal with Russia as a normal trading partner, without undue emotion and hysterics.

According to the European Commission, Germany has 4,600 companies active in this country and does 56 billion euros a year of business with Russia.

The summit in Nice will most likely decide to resume talks on a new partnership and cooperation agreement.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the other day in the European Parliament: "Given the state of the world today, I don't think it needs a crisis between Europe and Russia. That would be irresponsible. Europe does not want another Cold War."

Benita Ferrero Waldner, the EU Commissioner for External Relations, thinks Europe needs to maintain dialogue with Russia for a very simple reason - comprehensive interdependence between the EU and Russia in energy and international affairs.

The compulsive Italian premier, Silvio Berlusconi, even had a vision according to which Russia will become a full EU member within the next few years.

On the whole, the report shows that the EU is worried above all by economic problems and the fact that its newly admitted members cannot understand its concern. The former Communist, socialist and people's democratic countries cannot overcome post-Communist syndrome or fear of Russia.

This could have been understandable, if not for the new EU members' unwillingness to get rid of their fears. Their only argument is that Russia must be feared because it is a close neighbor.

Small countries will always fear big neighbors, but paranoia must be prevented. It is even worse when they insist that Russia must "lie down" and must not be allowed to cut oil and gas transit across their territory, or to increase energy prices. It must also be obliged to buy Western foods, used cars, and other Western goods even if it does not need them.

For some reason, these countries tend to forget that Russia has its own list of "bad memories" and debt claims to its neighbors.

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


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