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Difficult Partnership

DW staff / AFP (tt)November 10, 2006

Poland's objections are threatening to prevent the European Union from agreeing on a blueprint for negotiations with Russia on a new partnership, EU officials said Friday.

A collage with St. Basil's cahtedral in Moscow and the EU flag
Russia is an important but sometimes difficult partner for the European UnionImage: Montage picture-alliance/DW

Warsaw wants Moscow to ratify an international energy charter and lift embargoes on Polish meat and plant products before any EU-wide negotiating stance on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement is reached.

The problem will come to the fore on Monday, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels with the Russian issue high on the agenda.

With no movement on the Polish side, the blockage will have a serious effect on an EU-Russia summit scheduled for Nov. 24 in Helsinki.

European Commission spokeswoman on external affairs, Emma Udwin, acknowledged on Friday "Polish reserves" over the issue, but added that "the discussions are not yet over."

Disagreements on energy

European diplomats said the Polish government wanted a demand that Moscow ratify the Energy Charter Treaty -- which sets the rules for international energy trade -- included in the EU's negotiating position. Moscow has signed the treaty but has not ratified it.

"We want Russia to ratify the energy treaty," a Polish spokesman confirmed.

Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to clear up energy issues with RussiaImage: picture-alliance/dpa

France and Germany, among others, argued at an EU summit in Finland last month that the tactics be changed, and that the bloc attempt to include as many of the treaty's main points as possible in the new partnership accord, even if Russia has not ratified the entire document.

Speaking before the German Council on Foreign Relations earlier this week, however, German Chancellor Merkel said that a new cooperation and partnership agreement with Russia should have its energy chapter "formulated with clear basic rules."

"Russia is at the moment not ready to ratify the transit protocol of the Energy Charter Treaty," Merkel said. "We would like to see that happen."

The Energy Charter Treaty would give European companies wider access to Russian gas and oil fields and to the Russian energy market.

Russia may join WTO

Meanwhile, Russia's economic development ministry confirmed on Friday that Moscow hoped for a deal with the United States next week on entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

WTO sign at the WTO headquarters
Russia is the only major world economy that is not yet a member of the WTOImage: AP

Both sides have agreed on all principal conditions for this agreement," the ministry said in a statement.

"Both delegations are currently holding internal consultations in order to ensure the signing of a bilateral agreement on market access during the APEC summit in Hanoi" next week.

Earlier the US government announced it hoped to sign a WTO accession deal with Russia at the Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam.

"We have an agreement in principle and are finalizing the details," US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a statement.

"This agreement will mark an important step in Russia attaining membership in the WTO," she said.

Russia is the only major world economy that is not yet a part of the WTO and it needs the support of the United States before it can accede to the 149-member club.

The main outstanding question revolves around US meat imports to Russia, but Moscow has often complained that the deal was being held up by political issues.