"I hope that the discussions that we will have today will set aside the hindrances which have stopped us opening talks in the past. I trust that, even if not formally, we will take the first steps towards opening talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PAC)," Steinmeier told journalists.
Relations between the EU and Russia are currently governed by a PAC agreed in 1997. That deal was initially set to last 10 years, with a successor to be negotiated by the end of 2007.
But new EU member states Poland and Lithuania, who joined the union in 2004, have so far blocked the opening of talks on a new and wide-ranging deal establishing cooperation on economic, judicial, foreign-policy and cultural issues.
Poland's veto was provoked by a Russian ban on its meat and vegetable products, while Lithuania protests against the closure of a Russian pipeline feeding crude oil to its only refinery - a pipeline ironically called "Druzhba," or "Friendship."
Poland's stance has softened since Russia pledged to lift the meat ban and came to a deal Wednesday on the vegetable issue, leaving Lithuania's concerns over energy as the main apparent stumbling-block to opening talks.
"Agreements on energy cooperation belong as an integral part of this (PAC). We understand the concerns of some states regarding the security of their energy supplies - that is a question which must be solved within the PAC," Steinmeier said.
Last Mod: 28 Mart 2008, 17:33