Tuesday’s meeting in Brussels between the EU and Russia over energy policy has been cancelled after Poland vetoed opening talks on a new energy deal. The Poles want Moscow to lift its ban on their meat and vegetables, in force since last November, and their action threatens to derail the start of negotiations, which should have begun at the EU-Russian summit in Helsinki on Friday.
EU commission president Jose Manuel Barroso: “Today the EU imports about 50 per cent of its energy. Without policy reform this will rise to 70 per cent, and the percentages for gas will be even higher”. A common position is vital, as Russian dominance of the European energy market can only be counterbalanced by a united EU position. Otherwise states will cut their own deals and bid against each other, with foreign policy implications for the EU’s foreign affairs boss Javier Solana:
“Too often we have ended up divided or defending a line which is frankly a lowest common denominator. That has to change. Let us be clear: if we are not able to promote a unified substantive position to these issues, partners will run rings around us. It has already come pretty close to that on some occasions”. The EU is trying to pressure Russia to drop the ban on Polish foods, and to pressure Poland to lift its veto in the meantime. Brussels says a legal arbitration mechanism with Moscow may be activated if talks fail.