EU-Russia summit to discuss cross-border cooperation

EU-Russia Summit

The agreement and implementation of the programmes for cross-border cooperation between EU’s northern member states and Russia’s north western regions will be on the agenda when President Dmitri Medvedev today meets the EU leadership in Stockholm.

Today’s summit in the Swedish capital is the second EU-Russian summit this year. In front of the meeting, a Kremlin source speaking to the news agency Itar-Tass called the neighbourhood programme between north western regions of Russia and EU a promising ‘points of growth’ in the partnership relations. These are the programmes that involve cross-border cooperation in the Barents Region.

Sweden and Finland are EU members, while Norway’s relations with the EU are mainly governed by the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). Norway furthermore participates in the Schengen cooperation. In October, BarentsObserver reported that the Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen, wanted to see Norway as a member of the European Union.

The EU-Russian neighbourhood programmes in the border areas between the Nordic countries and north western regions of Russia will amount to USD 370 million (€250 million), reports Itar-Tass.

The funding area covers Murmansk Oblast and the Republic of Karelia in the Barents Region, but also Leningrad, Pskov, Kaliningrad and St. Petersburg.

Another important issue for the Barents Region to be discussed at the EU-Russian summit in Stockholm today is the transition to visa-free trips of citizens of the EU member states and Russia.

The introduction of visa-free travel between Russia and the EU would be a “brilliant project”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in December last year, as reported by BarentsObserver. Lavrov believes the introduction of visa-freedom would bear witness of Russia’s and the EU’s joint support to the development of relations on all levels.

A month ago, Sergey Lavrov headed the Barents Council meeting in Murmansk where Sweden’s Carl Bildt, Finland’s Alexander Stubb and Norway’s Jonas Gahr Støre participated.  At the Barents Council meeting Lavrov followed up the visa-issue: — We are interested in the greatest possible simplification of the ways to arrange crossing of borders, first of all, for inhabitants of border areas, Russia’s Foreign Minister told Bildt, Støre and Stubb.

The Summit is also expected to take stock of progress in the new EU-Russia agreement negotiations. From the outset of the negotiations, leaders have agreed that the new agreement should not only reflect the development of EU-Russia relations over the past 15 years, but also provide a strong legal basis for a substantial enhancement of EU-Russia relations in the future. It will also confirm the common commitments to respect for human rights and democracy that the EU and Russia have entered into at the UN, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe.