Stubb attends his first EU foreign ministers' meeting
Russia high on the agenda in Luxembourg
Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party) said on Monday that he believes that the European Union can reach agreement today, Tuesday, on continuing partnership talks with Russia.
No movement has taken place on the matter since 2006. During its turn at the Presidency of the EU, Finland tried to push the agreement forward , but at that time, Poland, which was embroiled in a dispute with Russia over meat exports, used its veto to block further discussions.
"If everything goes well, we will get a mandate, and it will go through tomorrow [at the EU foreign ministers' meeting]", Stubb said at a joint meeting of the EU and the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Luxembourg on Monday.
Finland currently holds the chairmanship of the OSCE.
A mandate is needed so that the EU can open negotiations with Russia. The EU is discussing the partnership agreement today at its foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg.
The 27 member states of the EU need to be unanimous about returning to the negotiating table.
Russia cancelled its ban on imports of Polish meat in December last year, and Poland has said that it no longer opposes the negotiations.
Now the only country to stand in the way of the talks is Lithuania, which wants Russia to resume oil deliveries through the oil pipeline that runs through Lithuanian territory. Russia cut off the pipeline running to Lithuania's only oil refinery Mazeku Nafta in 2006. Now it wants guarantees of energy supplies before it agrees to re-opening the talks.
As late as last week Lithuania threatened to veto the talks. Other countries, including EU Presidency-holder Slovenia, have put pressure on Lithuania, and apparently some narrowing of the gap has occurred.
Stubb said that it would be wonderful if things meshed together, but ne emphasised that nothing is certain in EU negotiations before the names are on the papers.
In his capacity as Foreign Minister of the holder of the Chairmanship of the OSCE, Stubb held talks on the situation in Georgia, and on the proposed EU cooperation treaty with Serbia. Finland said on Monday that it supports the signing of the so-called Stability and Association agreement with Serbia.
Stubb, who is taking part in his first EU foreign ministers' meeting on Tuesday, was looking forward to the event on Monday.
"I must say that tomorrow is something of a climax. It is, after all, one of the most important forums for the Finnish Foreign Minister. It is where I can meet all colleagues face to face, with whom I have spoken by telephone."
Previously in HS International Edition:
Stubb wants to "modernise" Finnish and EU relations with Russia (28.4.2008)
Stubb: Russia needs to be linked more closely to Europe (23.4.2008)
Poland blocks EU talks with Russia - setback for Helsinki summit (14.11.2006)