In an interview with Interfax, Javier Solana explains why the EU is eager to begin negotiations with Russia for an agreement to replace the current Partnership and Co-operation Agreement signed in 1994:
The current agreement was negotiated soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Russia as a state was then only a few years old, and the EU of today is also very different from that of the early 1990s. . . The new agreement should reflect the changes in both Russia and the EU, and lay a good ground for the very wide and diverse co-operation that we have today, and which we want to expand further in the years to come.
Russian FM Sergei Lavrov sends the love right back:
If what we expect and what they are hinting at (in the EU) happens, talks could begin shortly and this could be announced at the summit in Khanty-Mansiisk.
The major obstacle in EU-Russian relations is obviously the East-West split within Europe itself. Significantly, the Eastern European countries most hostile to closer strategic ties with Russia all acceded to the Union well after the previous 1994 agreement was concluded. So the replacement agreement will be a clarifying moment for what to expect in the near future. The fact that it could conceivably take effect under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, which adds some muscle to the EU’s conduct of foreign policy, make it all the more interesting to watch.
A lot of people assume that the EU will always suffer the fatal flaw of its internal contradictions, especially the question of whether it’s a collection of sovereign states or a sovereign collection of states. But I’ve got a hunch that with a bit of tweaking, it could actually be pretty well adapted to the fluid geopolitical environment of the next ten years. The pessimistic reading also overlooks the impact on (elite) European opinions of the Iraq War, which made the creation not necessarily of a counterbalance, but of a real alternative to U.S. power very attractive. Of course, there’s always the potential for a populist-sovereignist rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, which would pretty much condemn the entire continent to the backwaters of history. But should it pass, I’m pretty bullish on the EU.