France is calling for new tonality in the European Union’s relations with Russia, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters on Tuesday, as he set forth his plans in the light of France’s upcoming presidency in the European Union on July 1, 2008, according to Itar-Tass.

“For the European Union Russia is part of its future, its biggest neighbour,” Kouchner went on to say.

He believes that until recently “the Russian side has had an impression that the EU position is pre-determined in advance while the solutions it offers have no room for discussion.” In the meantime, countries-members of the European Union refuted that assertion by vote at the recent NATO summit in Bucharest.

“Six nations that founded the European Union, including Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Italy, France and the Netherlands, voted against immediate invitation to Georgia and Ukraine to become candidates to NATO membership,” the French foreign minister went on to say.

“We did that because we thought there was no need for it and conditions were not ripe for such a step,” Kouchner explained.

However, it doesn’t mean that the countries, which voted that way, approve of Moscow’s relations with Tbilisi and its decision to establish direct ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. At the same time, he added that the European Union could understand the feelings of countries that had been part of the Soviet Union for fifty years.

“But the world has changed. We shouldn’t build relations in a way as if there were still two blocs in Europe and that hammer and sickle are still depicted on the Russian flag. In Bucharest, we set forth a European position which we think to be legitimate,” the French foreign minister emphasized.

The NATO foreign ministers have been authorised to return to the question of Georgian and Ukrainian participation in the preparation to join the alliance in December, the French foreign minister stressed. He added that none of the countries had a veto right.

Kouchner also said that France wishes Dmitry Medvedev every success in his starting presidency.

The minister said that he plans to visit Russia before the current month ends.

In his words, the two countries have good relations.

While in Moscow, Kouchner is going to focus on the Russia-EU partnership.

The French foreign minister expressed hope that the forthcoming visit will make it possible to meet with Russia’s new president.

Russia`s president-elect Dmitry Medvedev will be sworn in as president on Wednesday on May 7. Medvedev, 42, won the first round of presidential elections on March 2. He will replace 55-year-old Vladimir Putin who is stepping down after two four-year presidential terms in full compliance with the Russian constitution.

Medvedev will become the youngest Russian leader in 100 years.