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Russia embargo on Polish meat imports illegal - European Commission says

The European Commission's vice-president has called the Russian embargo on Polish meat imports illegal at a hearing on EU-Russia relations in the run-up to a summit in Samara.

The European Commission has made a concerted effort to get Russia to lift the ban on the import of Polish meat products considering the Russian embargo „illegal and unjustified,” Guenter Verheugen said. Russia imposed an embargo in November 2005 claiming that meat imported from Poland had originated in third countries and failed to meet health standards. Verheugen said the EC was expecting Russia to give a clear signal and an exact schedule for lifting the embargo, even if time-phased. He said he was hopeful the parties would try to reach a new partnership and cooperation agreement at an upcoming EU-Russia summit in Samara on May 17-18.

Russian Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev said April 26 that Moscow was ready to hold another round of negotiations with Poland on meat imports to Russia. „We will continue to protect our market from low-quality meat imports from Poland,” Gordeyev said, adding that the Russian veterinary control and a European association uniting shipping agents, suppliers and customs officials had discovered that 20% of polish meat meant for Russia was low quality. During negotiations in Limassol, Cyprus, on April 21-22 the Russian agriculture minister and Commissioner Kyprianou failed to agree to lift the embargo. At meetings with European Commission officials in Moscow on March 12-13

Russia's agricultural competition office laid claims to European veterinary inspectors over the quality of Polish produce. Although the EC initially said then the Russian embargo was „disproportionate,” it acknowledged that Poland had not complied with European meat export requirements. Last November, EU newcomer Poland vetoed talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between Moscow and Brussels to replace the current pact, which expires in late 2007, over the Russian ban on meat and other agricultural imports from Poland. Moscow cited health concerns, but Warsaw said the move was political. (