Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday urged the European Union to speed up the process of visa-free travel between Russia and the 27-nation bloc. The announcement came after a 2 day summit in Saint Petersburg attended by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy.
After 4 years of talks, the two powers still strongly disagree on issues ranging from energy supply to trade regulations, making it difficult for a new framework agreement to be reached. The EU wants the Kremlin to fight against corruption and strengthen the rule of law in order to improve Western private investment.
Russia and the European Union are strongly linked. Europe heavily depends on Russia's energy exports. Russia has increasingly demanded European goods to meet growing demand from the Russian middle class.
Also in the agenda was the Syrian crisis. The EU wants Russia to pressure its long-term ally Syria to cease violence and comply with Koffi Anan's peace plan.
As international pressure is mounting on President Putin, the Kremlin insists that while they are not protecting Syria's president Bashar el-Assad, his departure can not be a pre-condition for political dialogue. The el-Assad family has been in power for 42 years.