(From left) President of the European Council Herman Van
President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev and
President of the European Commission José Barroso.
© European Union, 2011
"It is a summit of results", said President of the
European Council Herman Van Rompuy after the 28th EU-Russia Summit
of 15 December, held in Brussels. The highlights of the very full
agenda were Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation
(WTO) and the agreement on steps to be taken towards visa-free
Towards visa-free travel
The Summit launched the "Common steps towards visa-free travel".
The "steps" are concrete actions that both sides have agreed to
take, to be able to start negotiations on the visa-waiver agreement
for short-term stays.
These actions relate to document security (e.g. the introduction
of biometric passports), the fight against illegal immigration,
border management, public order, security and judicial cooperation,
including the fight against transnational organised crime,
terrorism and corruption.
There is no fixed timeframe for completing these steps. Senior
officials on both sides plan to meet in January 2012 to discuss the
technical aspects of their implementation.
In addition, the leaders welcomed the extension of the EU Local Border Traffic Regulation to the
entire area of Kaliningrad region. This means that citizens from
the whole of Kaliningrad and citizens from a specific border area
on the Polish side will have special permits equivalent to payable
short-term multiple entry visas, which will make it much easier for
them to travel to one another's countries.
Russia's WTO accession
"Russian WTO-accession is the major achievement. It is a
leverage for modernisation. It opens a myriad of new opportunities
for trade, investment and global growth", said President Van
Rompuy, who represented the EU at the summit together with
Commission President José Manuel Barroso.
Russia is a strategic partner of the EU and is its third largest
trading partner in goods (after the US and
China). The EU is by far the largest market for Russian goods.
Russia will become a full WTO member after all the accession
procedures have been completed, which will probably be in the
summer of 2012. Russia's WTO membership is expected to boost the
ongoing negotiations for a new EU-Russia Agreement, which is to
replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, in
force since 1997.
One of the most important achievements relating to Russia's WTO
negotiations is a political agreement on the phasing out of
Siberian overflight royalties that were
hitherto imposed on EU airlines. It was
agreed that from 2014 all charges will be cost-related and be paid
to the responsible authorities.
Partnership for modernisation
The EU-Russia Partnership for Modernisation is now in full
implementation. Its goal is to foster the modernising of economies
In the EU's view, modernisation should not be focused on
technology alone; the rule of law, protection of citizens' rights,
and a level playing field for companies are key if the goals of the
partnership are to be achieved.
The modernisation actions are outlined in the four specific "Common Spaces" (the economy; freedom, security
and justice; external security; research, education and
The EU and Russia exchanged views on the main areas of
cooperation under this partnership and have tasked the coordinators
for both sides to develop a plan.
The EU also expressed concerns about problems in the Russian
elections and would like Russia to live up to its international
commitments to ensure free and fair elections and to fully observe
democratic standards in the forthcoming presidential elections on 4
Press statement (pdf)
Webcast of press conference