Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a warm welcome by European Union leaders when he arrived in Brussels ahead of today’s EU-Russia pre-Christmas summit.
But with tough talking expected over several contentious issues, last night might be the only evidence of convivial conversation.
Putin was fresh from his live address to the Russian Nation where he spoke for several hours on his view of global and domestic political subjects.
During it he made it clear he would not tolerate western criticism over the Kremlin’s crackdown on political dissent. In return he specifically criticised Washington and its new law to bar entry to Russians accused of human rights offences.
If dissent will be difficult to discuss so too will be the EU’s energy policy. Brussels sees Russia’s state gas firm GAZPROM as its third energy package but Moscow is furious with the European Commission for opening a probe into the company for alleged price-fixing.
Talks may also be rocky over Russia’s demand for immediate visa-free travel for Russian citizens. Although the EU wants to simplify precedures its not ready yet to go all the way.