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European Law Monitor NewsEU-Russia summit • close neighbours, strategic partners

Commission president Barroso, Russian president Putin and Portuguese PM Socrates at EU-Russia summit in Mafra, Portugal.Commission president Barroso, Russian president Putin and Portuguese PM Socrates at EU-Russia summit in Mafra, Portugal.
From steel trade and energy security to drug prevention and cultural cooperation • leaders exploit the potential of EU-Russia partnership.

"We are making progress in expanding our relationship across a whole range of areas," announced president Barroso at the twentieth EU-Russia summit on 26 October in Mafra, Portugal.

The two sides signed a trade agreement on steel products, increasing the quantities that Russia can export to the EU in 2007/08 to accommodate the EU's newest members Bulgaria and Romania, both traditional trading partners with Russia.

Russia is Europe's third largest trading partner and the EU is keen to see it join the world trade organisation. The Mafra summit gave impetus to this move, which will guarantee greater stability and predictability for the EU and integrate Russia further into the world economy.
Discussions on energy addressed security of supply. "We have agreed today on a specific early-warning mechanism to deal with problems in supply before they become possible crises," explained Mr Barroso.

Also addressed was the commission's recent energy liberalisation package, which will ensure that all companies play by the same rules. "It is vital for both the EU and Russia that companies such as Gazprom play a real, equal and active role in the EU's competitive energy markets," said energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs earlier in the week at the international energy forum in Moscow.

To tackle growing drug abuse and trafficking, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the EU and Russia's own drugs watchdogs. This will enable them to share information and technical expertise on the use of illegal drugs.

The eve of the summit saw the first ever meeting of the permanent partnership council on culture, signalling strong commitment by both sides to take cultural cooperation to a new level.
President Barroso acknowledged that while differences remain, the scope of political dialogue with Russia is broader than ever • covering trade, culture, human rights, energy, aviation, security and justice issues.

He stressed that the talks in Mafra were constructive and pragmatic. The dialogue on outstanding issues will continue - leaders will meet again in June 2008 in the Russian region of Khanty-Mansiisk.