EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels yesterday held a comprehensive debate on the EU's strategic partnership with Russia – ahead of a discussion at the European Council of 14/15 March – with domestic developments, foreign policy cooperation and the state of the EU-Russia relationship all on the agenda of yesterday's Foreign Affairs Council.
Ministers agreed to continue to seek constructive engagement with Russia in areas of common interest and to strengthen the overall strategic relationship, while recalling Russia's commitments to guarantee democratic rights and freedoms in line with commitments undertaken in the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
"Foreign ministers confirmed our interest to work constructively with Russia on a broad range of issues," said EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, who will report on the outcome of the discussion to the European Council. "They include foreign policy. We already work well together on questions such as Iran, MEPP and Afghanistan but of course we want Russia to engage more when it comes to Syria and protracted conflicts in the Southern Caucasus and Moldova."
"We discussed the Eurasian Union and how this integration process fits with the EU's policy within the Eastern Partnership. Ministers recalled the important upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius later this year," she added.
Ashton said ministers had underlined the importance of the New EU-Russia Agreement, which should update and replace the existing Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. "In terms of trade there is a lot of potential and we welcome Russia's membership of the WTO, but we are looking to Russia to respect the commitments made in this context."
Turning to the domestic situation in Russia, the High Representative said there had been "a great deal of strong concern over recent developments limiting the activities of Russian civil society and negatively influencing the democratic rights and freedom in the country".
"We therefore agreed to continue to seek constructive engagement with Russia in areas of common interest and to strengthen our overall strategic relationship, while recalling Russia's commitments to guarantee democratic rights and freedoms in line with commitments undertaken in the OSCE, the Council of Europe and elsewhere."
Source: ENPI Info Centre
- Ashton remarks
- Council meeting press release
- EU Neighbourhood Info Centre – Ashton and Lavrov take stock of international issues and EU-Russia relations (19-02-13)