Protests by Georgian sympathisers outside the venue of the EU/Russia summit in Finland underlined the sensitive nature of the talks. The EU has spoken against Russia over its blockade of Georgia as relations between the two states remain at rock bottom. They plummeted over a spying row in recent weeks but that merely brought to a head tensions over internal conflicts within Georgia.
In a blunt warning President Vladimir Putin said Tbilisi was risking bloodshed by seeking to regain control over breakaway regions which Russia supports. Energy was the other main talking point of the discussions with the EU seeking agreement on a strategic partnership with its vast eastern neighbour.
European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso stressed the importance of finding common ground. “I think we should not allow energy to divide us the way communism once did.” The summit did yield agreement to negotiate on common principles in a new partnership deal.
Russia’s EU ambassador, Vladimir Chizhov, said there should be no concern about supplies: “I believe that the reserves that Russia has are quite adequate to address whatever Europe – I mean members of the European Union – will order”, he said.. Russia also gave an assurance that foreign oil and gas investments would be respected. The EU leaders delivered a united message that Russia must give European firms a fair chance to exploit its huge energy resources or risk an investor exodus.