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EU, Russia to sign new partnership agreement in 3-4 yrs - expert

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A new partnership agreement between the European Union and Russia will be signed only in three to four years, when the EU defines its priorities in relations with Russia, a Russian official said Friday.
MOSCOW, March 2 (RIA Novosti) - A new partnership agreement between the European Union and Russia will be signed only in three to four years, when the EU defines its priorities in relations with Russia, a Russian official said Friday.

The talks on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) to replace the current one, which expires in late 2007, were set to begin at the Russia-EU summit in Helsinki in November, but Poland vetoed the talks over Moscow's ban on meat imports from the EU newcomer.

The head of the Russian Foreign and Defense Policy Council presidium, Sergei Karaganov, told a news conference in Moscow that the delay in starting the talks came about not only because Poland vetoed them, but also because EU countries have not yet decided on the nature of their long-term cooperation with Russia.

"The EU does not know what it wants from Russia in the long term," the expert said, adding that Europe is suffering from a political and identity crisis.

"Only after the EU overcomes this crisis, and Russia strengthens even more and thus becomes a more valuable partner for Europe, will it be possible to talk about the conclusion of a new treaty," he said.

Karaganov said a strategic partnership should be accounted for during the work to formalize the new document.

Russia imposed an embargo on Polish meat in November 2005 claiming that meat from third countries was imported under the cover of Polish produce.

Poland sees Russian sanctions as retaliation for Warsaw's backing of the 2004 "orange revolution" in Ukraine, which brought pro-Western forces to power in the country.

Relations between Russia and Poland, a former Communist Bloc country that joined the EU in May 2004, have deteriorated dramatically in the past few years.

A string of recent diplomatic spats has increased mutual distrust between the two neighbors, prompting many politicians in Warsaw to conclude that the Kremlin is using the embargo on Polish imports as a political weapon.

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