Sunday, September 03, 2006

Lappeenranta: EU Split on Russia

Signs of a split in the ranks of European foreign ministers who are meeting in Lappeenranta, Finland (near the Russian border), this weekend, where relations with Russia are concerned.

Finland's leftist foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja has been arguing for "improved contact" and "better relations" between Russia and the union, and this line has generally been approved by the nations of "old" Europe, particularly France and Germany. Countries such as Poland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia take a different view, however. Hufvudstadsbladet reports that
In particular, there is the uncertainty surrounding energy supplies, which is seen as a problem.

"We are far too dependent on energy imports from one supplier," says Poland's foreign minister Anna Fotyga, without mentioning Russia by name.

The Poles have also been unhappy with the Russian-German decision to lay a nutral gas pipeline along the bottom of the Baltic Sea directly to the continent.

Latvia's foreign minister Artis Pabriks says for his part that his country will probably support a common EU line concerning Russia.

"But it mustn't be a blind partnership, of course."

Within the Baltic region there is also the problem that not all the border agreements with Russia have been ratified. But Tuomioja plays down the significance of this, maintaining that border co-operation functions well in practice.

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The international press which is watching the EU meeting in Lappeenranta has noted that Finnish-Russian relations have not always been as problem-free as now. As an example of this there is mention of the large cemetery in Lappeenranta with the graves of [Finnish] soldiers who fell in the Second World War.

(my tr.)
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