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Moscow Times
December 2, 2009
EU Insists Lisbon Treaty Will Make Life Easier
By Nikolaus von Twickel

European Union representatives insisted Tuesday that the Lisbon Treaty would make life easier for foreign policymakers dealing with the bloc’s often stormy relations with Moscow.

“This is a good day for Russia because it lets us deal more effectively with our friends,” Swedish Ambassador Tomas Bertelman told reporters on the day that the EU’s biggest reform treaty came into force.

Bertelman, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the reforms rendered the union’s foreign policy more efficient and coherent, although it would still require consensus among all member states.

The treaty creates a new high representative for foreign affairs that amalgamates the posts held by Javier Solana and External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.

Critics have said the reform actually makes the EU more complicated because it creates a new permanent president of the European Council while leaving in place the commission president and ­ for now ­ the EU’s rotating presidency.

At the next EU-Russia summit, planned in Rostov-on-Don in the first half of 2010, President Dmitry Medvedev might face a small army of leaders, including the bloc’s new foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Council President Herman van Rompuy and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Also present might be Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose country takes over the rotating EU presidency in January.

Still, senior Russian policymakers said they expected talks with Europe to become easier.

“Yes, the beginning will be difficult, but Brussels bureaucracy has shown in the past that it can solve even the most complex problems,” Vasily Likhachyov, a former ambassador to the EU and deputy chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, told The Moscow Times.

Mikhail Margelov, the committee’s chairman, said there was no doubt that the treaty would make negotiations easier. “It smoothens diversity when Russia acts as a state and the EU as a network structure,” he told RIA-Novosti.

Margelov added that the creation of a new European Foreign Service would be helpful.

The Lisbon Treaty also raises the status of the European Commission’s 135 foreign representations to EU delegations.

The head of the Moscow delegation, Fernando Valenzuela, expressed hope Tuesday that Russia would soon join the World Trade Organization and said last week’s signing of a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan would not necessarily complicate this. “We have nothing against the establishment of a customs union. We are a customs union ourselves,” Valenzuela said.

Experts have said the customs union, initiated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier this year, creates new hurdles for the country’s WTO bid. But President Dmitry Medvedev has said WTO membership remains a policy goal.

Valenzuela also said that while the EU had a clear position on a common European security policy, Moscow’s initiative for a new security architecture would be best discussed in the framework of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“We think that [the OSCE] is the natural forum for it,” he said.

Medvedev has championed a new security treaty since becoming president last year, and the Kremlin on Sunday published a draft and sent it to the OSCE, where it was discussed Tuesday. (Story, Page 3)

But Medvedev has expressed frustration with the OSCE. Margelov echoed this Tuesday, saying NATO could no longer safeguard European security and the OSCE could only do so after being reformed.

“It has turned into a human rights organization specializing in criticizing the young democracies of Russia and selected post-Soviet countries,” Margelov said. “It has dropped its political-military work, and in this state it cannot compete with NATO or the EU.”

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