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Agreement on start of negotiations for new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russian Federation

"We have reached a good agreement, which respects the needs of Lithuania while also taking into account the interests of the EU as a whole." This is how, in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on 11 May, the President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dimitrij Rupel, described the consensus reached by the EU Council Presidency, the European Commission and Lithuania on a mandate for the European Commission to start negotiations on a new partnership and cooperation agreement with the Russian Federation. The Slovenian Presidency will submit the agreement to the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council for approval at its next meeting.

Dr Rupel confirmed the news at a press conference after a meeting with the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas. The Slovenian Foreign Minister, accompanied on this mission by his Swedish and Polish counterparts, Carl Bildt and Radislaw Sikorsky, was also received by the Lithuanian President, Valdas Adamkus. Dr Rupel thanked Lithuania for its efforts to resolve this difficult issue.

The Commission's mandate for negotiations with Russia had previously been discussed at the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on 29 April in Luxembourg; however, the EU Foreign Ministers had been unable to reach agreement on the text. The agreement reached today at Vilnius is expected to be confirmed at the next Council meeting, scheduled for 26 May in Brussels.

Dr Rupel emphasised that his visit to Lithuania had three important objectives:  to clarify Lithuania's standpoint on the European Commission's mandate to start negotiations for a new partnership and cooperation agreement with the Russian Federation, to collaborate with Lithuania to find solutions to the issues relating to specific Lithuanian interests, and to bring those solutions into line with the needs and requirements of the remaining 26 EU Member States.

“The Slovenian Presidency understands the issues Lithuania faces and is aware that its citizens still carry a certain historical burden, but it is the task of the Presidency to find a common approach to all issues,” pointed out Dr Rupel, adding that the Presidency had, in cooperation with the Council General Secretariat and the European Commission, drawn up a package of proposals extensively addressing the issues of concern to Lithuania. The draft of the Commission's mandate for negotiations with the Russian Federation includes three items to which Lithuania has been calling attention: Russia's attitude to the ‘frozen conflicts' in Abkhazia and Trans-Dniester with emphasis on the territorial integrity of Georgia and Moldova, its effective cooperation in the field of justice and law enforcement, and its standpoint on energy. "Thus, in drawing up the agreement, we have respected Lithuania's vital interests in the context of the general interests of the EU," stressed the Slovenian Foreign Minister, stating that he had asked Lithuania to show solidarity with the other 26 EU Member States on precisely that basis. Dr Rupel stressed that the EU was particularly interested in a new partnership agreement with Russia, adding that those who would benefit the most from the agreement would be its neighbour countries, including Lithuania. On this basis the Slovenian Presidency asked Lithuania to show solidarity with the other 26 EU Member States. "The European Union is based on solidarity," underscored the Slovenian Foreign Minister.

Dr Rupel pointed out that Slovenia and Lithuania share a long-standing friendship. The two countries commenced their political dialogue long before Slovenia and Lithuania gained international recognition. The Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, when it was still part of Yugoslavia, adopted a resolution recognising Lithuania as early as 16 May 1990; in turn, Lithuania was the second State to recognise Slovenia on 30 July 1991. The two countries established diplomatic relations on 22 November 1991. The Slovenian Foreign Minister recalled that his visit to Lithuania was one of the first official visits abroad after Slovenia's declaration of independence. Dr Rupel also stressed that both countries have been very successful in joining Euro-Atlantic alliances and remarked on their frequent cooperation.

Dr Rupel concluded by announcing that on Monday 12 May he, together with the ministers attending the Vilnius meeting, will visit Georgia where he is to meet senior representatives of the Government and the Head of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG).


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Date: 16.05.2008