The EU's "strategic deal" with Russia
The "strategic deal" which the European Union is currently refusing to negotiate with Russia is a sweeping legal agreement designed to regulate the relationship for years to come, reported dpa.
At present, the relationship between the two sides is governed by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) negotiated with the government of Boris Yeltsin in 1997.
The PCA is a contract governing matters such as trade, investment, environmental protection, tourism, and cultural exchanges.
It also covers relations in fields such as the protection of intellectual property, regulation of import tariffs, and economic cooperation, especially in fields "designed to to bring about economic and social reforms and restructuring in Russia."
The agreement created a system whereby the EU and Russia hold two summit meetings a year and maintain a permanent Cooperation Council on ministerial level to deal with ongoing issues.
And it set up a system for dealing with disputes by means of arbitration and clears the way for either side to take "appropriate measures" if it feels the other side has broken the deal.
The PCA was initially intended to run for 10 years.
Given the enormous changes in Russia since 1997, and the EU's 2004 expansion up to Russia's border, the two sides in 2006 agreed to start negotiating a new agreement on issues such as trade, energy supplies, culture and education.
But the talks fell foul of international problems. First Poland blocked the opening of talks in protest at a Russian ban on Polish meat and vegetable exports, then Lithuania vetoed them in protest at Russia's closure of the oil pipeline to Lithuania's only refinery.
Lithuania lifted its veto in May, paving the way for the first set of talks on July 4.
But following the Russian-Georgian conflict of August 7-12, EU leaders decided to freeze the talks in protest at what they saw as Russia's "disproportionate reaction" to Georgia's attack on its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Talks were frozen "until troops have withdrawn to the positions held prior to 7 August." EU states are now at loggerheads over whether Russia's recent withdrawal from all Georgia outside the breakaway regions fulfils that condition.