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Russia Accepts Enlargement Deal

Russia today signed a eleventh hour deal to extend its trade and diplomatic ties with the EU to the new members joining later this week.

The announcement to extend trade and diplomatic ties means that the 10 new members joining the EU on Saturday will trade with Russian under the same rules as the EU’s 15 existing members. At a press conference in Luxembourg, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that Moscow would sign the deal provisionally. The announcement comes after months of Russian refusal to sign an extension to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) unless certain concerns were dealt with. The EU had insisted that the PCA be extended automatically causing a stalemate that lasted for months. The hurdle was eventually overcome with an agreement that the two sides would make a joint declaration on some of Russia’s concerns in parallel with the announcement of the PCA extension. According to diplomats, a deal had been close this week but for a dispute over the status of the Russian minorities particularly in Latvia and Estonia. In the end, the joint declaration did not specifically refer to Russian minorities but to minorities in general. However, the two Baltic states are angry that the status of their minorities was allowed to be brought into such sharp focus. The deal will have to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Russian Duma before formally coming into force. (EUobserver.com)

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