An EU summit with Russia scheduled for this Thursday and Friday threatens to degenerate into acrimony, over problems ranging from Polish meat to Kosovo. The 27 European Union foreign ministers have been meeting in Brussels to discuss a growing list of disputes involving Russia and new EU members once within the Soviet sphere.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the EU’s current presiding nation Germany stressed that both sides needed each other. “Complicated though the situation is,” Steinmeier said, “in times of difficulty it is particularly important to talk. Right up to the summit we will try to resolve the conflict concerning Polish meat.”
This is one of the economic blockages: A Russian ban on Polish meat imports – over fraud cases Moscow says – is well into its second year. In retaliation, Warsaw is vetoing the launch of new EU-Russia strategic partnership negotiations. These would cover energy, trade, human rights and foreign policy. Certain groups at the European Parliament last week even suggested cancelling the summit in the southern Russian town of Samara.
Russian-EU ties are further beset by: differences over Serbia’s breakaway Kosovo province; Moscow’s fury at Estonia’s removal of a Soviet monument from Tallinn city centre; Russia’s interruption of oil supplies to a Lithuanian refinery; and Russian anger at a planned US missile shield in Eastern Europe.