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EU backs Poland in trade standoff with Russia

A senior EU official said on Tuesday that Poland is honoring all food regulations, and should be exempt from Russia's ban on the import of Polish meat, opening the way to a new Russia-EU partnership agreement.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, said last week it had received a letter from the Russian agriculture minister reiterating Moscow's refusal to lift its ban on meat imports from Poland, imposed over claims that the meat was re-exported from third countries, violating sanitary rules. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU commissioner for external relations and European neighborhood policy, said in an interview with RIA Novosti ahead of a Russia-EU summit on May 17-18, that since Poland fully complies with EU and Russian veterinary and phyto-sanitary laws and regulations, Russia should lift its ban on the import of Polish meat and agricultural produce, and that Poland should lift its veto on the start of talks on a new Russia-EU cooperation and partnership deal.

The talks on the agreement will address Russia's dispute with Estonia over the removal of Soviet WWII monument from central Tallin, but will not include discussions on US plans to deploy a missile shield in Central Europe, the commissioner said. The European Commission's vice-president, Gunter Verheugen, said last Thursday that the commission expected Russia to give a clear signal and an exact schedule for lifting the meat embargo, even if time-phased. Moscow has repeatedly stated that it will not ratify the treaty since some of its provisions are discriminatory against Russia. Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said Monday that his country would maintain its veto on a new Russia-EU partnership deal. Benita Ferrero-Waldner said a new agreement should reflect, among other things, the key principles of the Energy Charter Treaty.

German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, who arrived in Moscow Tuesday to tie up loose ends ahead of the summit, said it is critical for Russia and the EU to "return to positions based on common sense," and that the guiding principle would be sensible "proposals instead of rebukes." Ferrero-Waldner said the EU does not intend to raise the issue of Russia's possible moratorium on the implementation of the adapted CFE Treaty or the deployment of US missile defense elements in the Czech Republic and Poland. She said that since national defense matters, as well as agreements on the deployment of troops in Europe, are addressed at the Russia-NATO Council, and will not be raised by the EU. The CFE was concluded in 1990 by the then-22 NATO members and the now defunct Warsaw Pact to enhance arms control in Europe, and amended in 1999 to take post-Cold War realities into account. NATO countries have not ratified the new version, demanding that Russia first withdraw from Soviet-era bases in Georgia and Moldova under the so-called Istanbul Agreements. (rian.ru)