European Union leaders have met the Russian president with Poland describing relations between the sides as in “crisis”. Vladimir Putin held talks with Jose Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, and Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany which holds the rotating EU presidency, near Samara in southern Russia but little was resolved.
“We found many problems during the summit. We have not always managed to convince each other but I think it’s always better to speak to each other than to speak about each other,” Merkel said. The EU and Russia are trying to reach a partnership treaty but it is being blocked by Poland.
The current agreement runs out this year and can be extended,Â but EU officials said that failure to start negotiations would be an embarrassment for both sides. BarrosoÂ said he sawÂ “no reasons for a ban against Polish meat. If there was a reason we would not allow Polish meat to circulate in the EU.”Â
“We had occasion to say to our Russian partners that a difficulty for a member state is a difficulty for the whole European community,” he added. “The Polish problem is a European problem. The Lithuanian and Estonia problems are also EU problems. It is very important if you want to have close co-operation to understand that the EU is based on principles of solidarity.”
Putin responded that the EU should solve its “internal problems” and Kremlin officials said that Russia has already made sufficientÂ concessions to Poland and is waiting for a response. The Russian presidentÂ also accused Estonia and Latvia of violating the rights of Russian speakers in the two Baltic nations.
“Violations of the rights of the Russian-speaking population” in the two countries are “unacceptable and unworthy of Europe,”Â he said. Moscow’s relations with Estonia have deteriorated sinceÂ the Baltic state moved a Soviet-era war memorial from the centre of its capital and continued after attacks on the country’s websites.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU’s external relations commissioner, suggested upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia could be partly to blame for the frosty relations with European nations.
The atmosphere at the talks was also soured when Russian opposition leaders, including former chess champion Garry Kasparov,Â were stopped from travelling to the region to hold a protest calling for democratic reforms. “I’m concerned about some people getting problems in travelling here. I hope they will be given an opportunity to express their opinion,” Merkel said.
“Not one member of The Other Russia delegation… was allowed to board,” Denis Bilunov, Kasparov’s spokesman said. Lev Ponomaryov, another opposition activist who was scheduled to have boarded the flight, said he suspected foul play. “Uniformed men have taken our passports. They’ve taken 13 passports. I consider this is a criminal offence.”