Sunday

21st Jan 2018

Murder and meat give awkward edge to EU-Russia summit

  • EU leaders faced an uncompromising Vladimir Putin (Photo: eu2006.fi)

The murders of Alexander Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya hung over the EU-Russia summit in Helsinki on Friday (24 November) in a meeting that did not resolve the Polish-Russian meat row but did see progress on Siberian overflights and environmental cooperation in the Barents and Baltic seas.

"I would hope the British authorities would not contribute to the instigating of political scandals, which have nothing to do with reality," Russian president Vladimir Putin said on the London poisoning of Mr Litvinenko, a Russian spy turned Kremlin critic.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Mr Putin called Mr Litvinenko's death-bed letter, which accuses the Russian president of ordering the murder, "political provocation" and suggested it may have been written by anti-Kremlin forces after his death in a question hard to resolve since "Mr Litvinenko is not Lazarus."

The Russian president said "hundreds" of people have been questioned over the recent murder of anti-Kremlin reporter Ms Politkovskaya but hit back with remarks the EU has its own problems with "mafia" killings of judges and government officials that have been unsolved for "decades."

"In Europe there are well-known cases of political assassination that haven't been fully investigated or solved yet," he stated, adding that contract killing has become a "more acute" problem in both Russia and Europe, but that "it wouldn't be right to politicise this issue."

Mr Putin also gave little sign of backing down on the Polish meat export ban or allowing the European Commission to set-up trilateral Brussels-Warsaw-Moscow talks, despite a personal pledge from commission president Jose Manuel Barroso that the Polish food system is safe.

"Polish agencies should pay more attention to administration in this area [labelling of meat exports]," he said, citing Polish "national egoism" in blocking the start of EU-Russia treaty talks due to the trade row and saying the EU has "no mandate" to talk about export issues on behalf of member states.

Polish steak for lunch

Mr Barroso tried to inject humour by saying "maybe...at the next summit we can have a good Polish steak during lunch" before turning serious to add "we should not [let the trade dispute] undermine our good relations with Russia or the possibility of a future EU-Russia agreement."

The summit host, Finnish prime minister Matti Vanhanen, backed up Mr Putin's assertion that the Polish food ban is a "technical not a political question" despite the fact Poland sees it as political punishment for its Russia-critical voice and as a strategic ploy to divide and weaken the EU.

On energy, the Russian leader ruled out importing EU ideas on "unbundling" big companies' energy-supply and energy-distribution services, saying Gazprom will "preserve its integrity" and that "this is a purely national competence of the Russian federation, nobody can take this decision for us."

The statement comes ahead of EU plans to call for energy unbundling in the EU single market in a January white paper, with the European Parliament urging the EU to push for Russian unbundling as well in an industry committee report voted through last Thursday.

It also comes in the context of a senior Lithuanian MP, Audronius Azubalis, suggesting that Brussels could in future use EU competition law to go after Gazprom in the same way it has attacked non-EU firm Microsoft - a theory that is sparking interest in Brussels.

Northern Dimension launched

Given that the main event of the summit - the planned opening of new EU-Russia treaty talks - fell prey to the Polish meat row, the leaders tried to make much of the new Northern Dimension policy and Russia's decision to phase out fees for European airlines flying over Siberia by 2013.

The Northern Dimension deal - which will see the EU, Russia, Norway and Finland cooperate on issues such as decomissioning old Russian nuclear submarines and combatting rampant HIV in Murmansk - was hailed as a "new era" in EU-Russia cooperation by both Mr Vanhanen and Mr Barroso.

The EU's top diplomat Javier Solana more modestly called the northern pact a "new page", while adding he had a "frank and friendly" discussion with Mr Putin on Iran, Georgia, Moldova and Kosovo - four areas of international politics where Russian policy runs counter to the EU line.

"We have looked at the problems of the world with, probably, I would not make a mistake if I said, the same eyes," Mr Solana said.

EU seeks to extend Morocco fish deal, despite legal opinion

An EU court advisor says an EU fish deal with Rabat should be scrapped due to the Morocco-annexed territory of the Western Sahara. The fisheries agreement is set to expire in July but the European Commission want to renew it.

US warns on flare-up in Ukraine 'crisis'

Fighting in Ukraine escalated to "hellish" levels not seen since February amid warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe in the run-up to Christmas.

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap