Russia's new PM Vladimir Putin is set to discuss Moscow's ties with the EU when he arrives in Paris Thursday for talks with Nicolas Sarkozy as France prepares to take over the EU presidency July 1. (Report: N. Germain)
Russia is hopeful France's presidency of the European Union will help it improve relations with Brussels but expects talks on an EU-Russia cooperation pact to be tough, a government source said.
France takes over the EU's rotating presidency on July 1 and Russia's new Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is expected to discuss ties with the bloc when he arrives in Paris on Thursday for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"We believe this (France's EU presidency) is very good because France is an old EU member and has very good relations with Russia," said the source.
"The role of the chairing state is very important, this creates a special atmosphere for the visit."
After 18 months of deadlock caused by rows between Moscow and some EU member states, negotiations on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement should be officially launched at a summit in Siberia at the end of next month.
The pact is intended to set out a legal basis for relations between Moscow and Brussels, but agreeing it will require first overcoming differences over disparate and thorny issues such as energy and human rights.
"The shape of the treaty is clear -- it will be a basic, legally binding pact," said the Russian source.
"We will need to work quite a lot if we want a good document. I do not think it could realistically be finalised before the end of the year."
The source said the pact would be a "major topic of discussion" during Putin's trip to France. Putin became prime minister this month after eight years as president. He still wields huge influence under new president Dmitry Medvedev.
Date created : 2008-05-29