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Warsaw blocks EU-Russian Negotiations on Cooperation Pact

by 5m Editor
18 January 2007, at 11:29am

POLAND - The press has recently focused on Russia’s relations with the European Union over natural gas issues. But Moscow has been playing diplomatic hardball with former Warsaw Pact member Poland over meat imports.

In response, since late 2006 Poland has blocked the initiation of talks on a new Stability and Cooperation Pact between the EU and Russia, and there is no resolution to the impasse in sight. The Polish opposition is the first occasion that one of the ten new states that joined the EU in 2004 has blocked such an important EU agreement. The trade issues underlying the dispute are significant, as the EU supplies Russia with up to a third of its meat.

Russia’s envoy to the EU Vladimir Chizov said, “The Poles are still linking their veto on talks with the meat imports issue. The subject will be addressed this week. If they (the experts) are satisfied (with Polish measures), we will take all necessary steps to resume imports of meat and meat products from Poland” (RIA-Novosti, January 15).

In November 2005 Russia banned Polish meat imports, alleging that Polish shipments violated Russian veterinary regulations amid health concerns. A year later Russian President Vladimir Putin said that while Moscow had problems with Polish meat imports per se, it was concerned about third party meat imports transshipped through Poland to Russia. Warsaw sees the Russian action as thinly disguised retaliation for its supports of neighboring Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, which replaced the pro-Moscow government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych with the Western-oriented administration of Viktor Yushchenko.

Russia has also harshly negotiated with the European Commission over a proposed trade memorandum concerning EU meat, dairy, and fish exports to Russian by threatening to ban EU imports because of concerns over animal health in Bulgaria and Romania. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on January 1. European Union health and consumer protection commissioner Markos Kyprianou placated Moscow by agreeing in the interim to exclude Bulgarian and Romanian meat products from EU exports to Russia. The stakes are substantial, as EU-Russian trade in 2006 reached $2.2 billion.

On January 15, following a meeting with Polish Agriculture Minister Andrzej Lepper, Kyprianou told journalists, “We have to be realistic. It's a complex issue and there is a possibility that it cannot be resolved at just one meeting”(RFE/RL, January 17). The EU currently provides Russia with almost 80% of its beef imports and 50% of its pork imports (BBC, June 7, 2004).

Source: Eurasia Daily Monitor

5m Editor