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Putin to discuss visa, energy issues in EU talks

Putin to discuss visa, energy issues in EU talksBrussels, Dec 21 : Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Brussels to attend Friday a Russia-EU summit focusing on non-visa travel and energy cooperation.

Moscow has made visa-free travel between Russia and the EU a foreign policy priority.

Russia submitted a draft agreement on scrapping the visa regime to the EU at the Russia-EU summit in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don in 2010, but Europe has been reluctant so far to move ahead with the issue amid concerns that a visa-free regime could lead to a rise in crime and illegal immigration.

Putin, who has repeatedly said the failure to resolve the issue was causing problems in relations between Moscow and Brussels, is expected to discuss the introduction of short-term visa-free travel for holders of business passports as a step toward the liberalisation of bilateral visa regulations.

During the plenary session, the Russian president will also press the issue of the possibility of exempting Russian companies from the provisions of the EU Third Energy Package, which requires the separation of energy production, transportation and sales.

Russia has repeatedly spoken out against the EU directive as it particularly affects the operations of vertically-integrated Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom, which produces and sells gas and owns transportation facilities.

After the plenary session, the participants are expected address international security issues, including North Africa, the Middle East, Syria, and Iran's nuclear programme.

The current summit is the 30th in the history of Russia-EU relations. The previous summit took place in St. Petersburg June 3-4.(IANS)