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Polish PM sees hope for EU-Russia talks

Poland hopes to agree with its European Union partners to resume the bloc’s frozen talks on a cooperation pact with Russia, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Thursday.

Warsaw’s previous conservative government blocked strategic partnership negotiations between Brussels and Moscow in mid-2007 over a Russian ban on Polish food imports, as well as over energy security issues. Tusk told Reuters in an interview: “I see no big problems in working out a negotiating mandate within the EU, and Poland will certainly not be an obstacle to the lifting of the veto.” Since coming to power in November last year, Tusk has brought a warmer tone to Poland’s dealings with Russia, while Moscow has lifted the farm products embargo. Poland said at the time this was a step towards removing its veto on the wide-ranging EU-Russia pact, which will include trade, energy and human rights.

Poland did not expect any additional steps from Moscow, Tusk said. The ball was now in the EU’s court to agree on a negotiating stance over energy issues that would satisfy Poland, which heavily depends on Russian oil and gas. “We don’t want to multiply new conditions,” Tusk said, adding it was essential that the EU spoke to Russia with one voice. “We must treat Russia with no fear, no fascination and see it as a separate political entity, which is not pushing for integration with the EU,” Tusk said. “An entity with its own aspirations and interests, that are sometimes in line and sometimes contradictory to the ones of the European community.”

Tusk said the newly-elected Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, was likely to continue the foreign policy line of his predecessor Vladimir Putin. That meant little chance, that the new occupant of the Kremlin would meet Poland’s hopes that a Russian-German undersea Baltic gas pipe project -- Nord Stream -- would be scrapped. “We have little say on whether the pipeline is built or not,” Tusk said. “And to the Russians and Germans, who want to build the most expensive pipeline in history, we say they cannot count on our acceptance.” Poland objects strongly to the pipeline deal, which it sees as cutting it out of the loop and leaving it vulnerable in terms of energy security. (Reuters)