Saturday, October 21, 2006

Holding the Fort

Finland's Helsingin Sanomat claims that "The EU's Front Held Before Putin" in a report published this morning, in the aftermath of last night's Lahti dinner. Putin is seen with Finland's President Tarja Halonen, leaving the meeting.

The paper leads with a statement by Finnish PM Matti Vanhanen that Putin replied to him in private to questions about Anna Politkovskaya's murder, calling it "shocking", and promising that a full investigation would be made, and that those guilty of the murder would be brought to justice. Putin did not,however, take any questions on this subject from the floor of the press conference.

Regarding the rest of the meeting, Helsingin Sanomat talks of a "frank and open exchange of ideas", and reiterates Vanhanen's claims that the EU leaders presented a united front to Putin on energy questions. "Putin explained at the press conference that Russia accepts the basic principles of the Energy Charter Treaty, but cannot accept certain aspects of its wording. Vanhanen also said it was an open question wether energy will be included in the partnership agreement, or whether Russia will ratify the treaty." Angel Merkel was reported to be less pessimistic, saying that she "has not given up yet". According to Putin, 44% of Europe's gas comes from Russia. The newspaper notes that "the need for co-operation became apparent last January, when gas imports from Ukraine were interrupted because of action by Russia."
The EU's foreign minister Javier Solana said that in the next few weeks Russia and Ukraine would sign an agreement which should improve the reliability of gas deliveries. "That's because we can't allow what happened this year to happen again," he said.

In addition to energy, relations between Georgia and Russia were covered at the dinner. At the press conference, Putin said very emphatically that the deterioration in relations was caused by Georgia, not by Russia.
(my tr.)

Finland's EU Presidency web pages are here.
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