Putin to visit EU next week
The European Commission will host Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and several of his ministers next week for talks on energy, trade and foreign policy, EU officials said Tuesday.
Putin will hold a one-on-one meeting with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on January 24 in Brussels while around 15 Russian ministers will meet with the other members of the European Union's executive branch.
The "executive-to-executive" meeting, which the two sides hold every two years, follows a December visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during which the EU backed Russia's bid to enter the World Trade Organization.
Barroso and Putin will discuss the latest steps in Moscow's WTO bid as well as bilateral trade and energy, a vital issue in the wake of gas supply disruptions to Europe caused in the past by rifts between Russia and Ukraine.
The commission chief will "certainly" discuss human rights concerns with the Russian premier, said Michael Karnitschnig, a European Commission spokesman.
The two leaders will then hold an extensive press conference, he said.
"We have an incredibly deep and detailed exchange with the Russian government," Karnitschnig told AFP.
"The fact that the meetings take place so often is actually a reflection of how our relationship has changed from mostly foreign policy to something that covers several issues of mutual interest," he said.
© 2011 AFP