European Union foreign ministers finally approved a negotiating mandate for talks on a new partnership agreement with Russia on Monday after 18 months of objections by ex-communist members of the bloc.
The mandate, already been agreed by ambassadors of the 27 EU states last week, was rubber-stamped as expected at a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels, EU President Slovenia said.
The EU hopes to launch talks with Russia on a broad new partnership covering political and economic ties, including energy and trade, at a June 26-27 EU-Russia summit in Siberia.
Analysts say negotiations with Russia and the ratification of any deal by EU capitals are likely to take several years. "It should finally provide some legally binding commitments in all main areas," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told a news briefing of the envisaged pact.
Ferrero-Waldner said it should cover the economy, trade, internal and external security issues, research, education and culture and industry deals in areas such as energy, in which Russia is a crucial supplier for many EU states.
On energy, the European Union was seeking a "level playing field" in terms of reciprocal market access and would seek a free trade agreement with Russia once Moscow joined the World Trade Organisation, she said.
"Negotiations will certainly not be easy they will be complex negotiations. I don't want to speculate at this moment, but I think they will take quite some time."
The mandate was agreed after an annex was added addressing Lithuanian concerns over the so-called "frozen conflicts" on Russia's borders in Moldova and Georgia.
The struggle to agree the mandate highlighted again the split between west European capitals that stress the need for solid economic ties with Russia and mostly ex-communist eastern states that want the EU to be firmer in dealing with Moscow.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Mayıs 2008, 17:57