The Economist: Divide, Rule or Waffle

econ020508.jpgThe security of EU-Russia relations continues to be a hot topic. The most recent partnership and co-operation agreement (PCA), drawn up in 1997, is now outdated, and ministers are stumbling over how to proceed with securing a new one. The Economist today delves into the particularities of some recent difficulties involving Lithuania and Poland. The latter’s issues, now resolved, arose over Russia’s ban last year of Polish meat imports, but Lithuanian complaints focus more on human rights issues. However, the article says, “none of this seems to bother the Russians much”, particularly in light of recent support and co-operations with Greece and Italy: “In practice a new PCA is unlikely to make much difference. Despite the obsolescence of the old one, trade between Russia and the EU has more than tripled since 2000. In negotiating a new one, Russia would, on past form, use its bilateral ties with big countries to get its way in what ought to be multilateral negotiations. And it is not clear that any new agreement will stick. Russia has explicitly said that it will not ratify the energy charter it signed in 1994, which would have required it to give third parties access to its gas pipelines. As Katinka Barysch, of the London-based Centre for European Reform, notes drily, ‘the Russians have a somewhat different approach to law, so whether you can aim to solve all problems with a legal document is open to doubt’.Read the full article here. (Image by Peter Schrank for The Economist)