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Poland blocks EU plan for mandate on energy talks with Russia

Poland blocked European Union plans to negotiate an energy agreement with Russia to protest a Russian ban on Polish meats and vegetables.

Poland's veto at a meeting of EU foreign ministers threatens to leave the bloc without a negotiating strategy when it hosts a November 24 summit with Russia. European officials said they hoped Poland would back down in the coming days. „We are of course fully aware of the difficulties Poland is experiencing over a Russian ban on certain Polish meat and plant products,” EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told reporters after the ministers met yesterday in Brussels. „We sympathize.” The 25-nation EU is seeking an energy agreement with Russia to improve access to its market for western producers.

An energy accord would be part of a broader political pact to replace an existing EU-Russia trade agreement. „We are still working on it,” Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, chairman of yesterday's talks, said of the negotiating strategy.  „It can still be done before the EU-Russia summit.” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Poland's opposition also stemmed from demands that Russia ratify the energy charter treaty, which sets free-market rules for the energy industry. EU officials counter that an EU-Russia energy agreement would achieve many of the same aims as the energy charter. (Bloomberg)