EU threatens Russian trade bar 's Daily Telegraph

  • 2007-05-04
  • From Wire Reports
The European Union is threatening to block Russian membership of global free trade agreements unless President Vladimir Putin pledged to "de-escalate" a deepening crisis between Moscow and its neighbors, The Daily Telegraph wrote on May 4.

The paper claims that secret EU documents reveal patience in Europe's capitals is running out with Russia amid spiraling trade disputes and attacks this week on Estonian diplomats in Moscow.

NATO joined the EU yesterday in registering a formal diplomatic protest over Russia's failure to protect Estonian embassy staff from marauding demonstrators with close political links to Mr Putin.

The row has been escalated by a Russian rail blockade of oil and coal exports to Estonia, a development that will harden EU resolve to take a tough line on Moscow's ambition to membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The showdown will take place at a EU-Russia summit in the Russian city of Samara on May 18 and European diplomats are ready to read the riot act to Mr Putin over a growing number of disputes.

These include cuts to Lithuania's oil supply, dual pricing for international and domestic rail cargo, export duties on wood and a ban on Polish meat imports.

WTO membership is key to Russia's full participation in the international economy and to securing lucrative, investment-friendly trade deals with the EU and United States.

A bullet point on a secret negotiating memo seen by the Brussels newspaper European Voice says: "Make clear that EU is ready to support early conclusion of Russia's WTO accession but not at any price and bilateral problems or disregard for existing commitments will be major impediments.

EU officials have said that a new "isolationist" Moscow is turning its back on the West.

Peter Mandelson, the European Trade Commissioner, recently alarmed colleagues by saying that EU-Russia relations have reached a "level of misunderstanding or even mistrust we have not seen since the end of the Cold War".