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UPDATED: 11:41, November 25, 2006
EU-Russia summit yields little fruit
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The 18th EU-Russia summit ended Friday in the Finnish capital of Helsinki, achieving little as the centerpiece of the summit -- launching negotiations for a new agreement on partnership and cooperation between the two sides -- aborted because of Poland's veto.

The EU and Russia had been planning to launch negotiations for a new EU-Russia partnership and cooperation agreement to replace the decade-old existing deal expected to expire next year. The new agreement will cover wide-ranging trade and energy policy issues.

Despite desperate last-minute effort by EU officials to lobby Poland to give up its stance, Poland insisted on blocking the launch of talks.

That led to the failure of the plan as the launch of negotiations for the deal requires a unanimous approval of all 25 EU member nations.

Poland demanded that Moscow lift its ban on importing Polish meat, saying the ban was politically motivated, but Russia refused to do so, citing food safety worries as the reason.

Warsaw said the import ban was its punishment from Moscow for embracing the West, while Russia has criticized Polish producers for violating hygiene laws and smuggling.

But Russia said there was no problem with the quality of Polish produce itself.

Poland became the first new member state to wield its veto power to halt talks with a third country.

The Polish veto exasperated other EU members, as the bloc is seeking agreement with Russia over the security of future oil and gas supplies.

"Of course it would be better not to have it (the Polish veto) but we are going to keep on working," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said upon arrival at the summit.

"The situation will be overcome," he said.

Media reports quoted experts as saying that the energy problem between Russia and the EU would drag on for years.

The EU is more and more dependent on Russia for energy as one quarter of its natural supplies comes from the former Soviet nation.

On an upper hand in this respect, Russia said Moscow was ready to launch the talks any time, as Russian President Vladimir Putin told a joint press conference after the summit, "we will be patient to wait for" the EU to get a mandate on this.

The current EU rotating presidency Finland will have to try hard to solve the mandate problem in order to start the negotiations as soon as possible.

The EU did not make any progress in urging Moscow to ratify the Energy Charter Treaty and open its oil and gas sector.

The only pride for the bloc is that it succeeded in persuading Russia to phase out charges for Siberia overflight in the end of 2013, settling a 20-year dispute over the matter.

European carriers pay more than 330 million euros (about 400 million U.S. dollars) annually in Siberian overflight charges.

"(The deal) opens a wide range of opportunities for strengthening EU-Russia relations, in particular in the transport field," said EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot.

Source: Xinhua

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