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NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Monday, November 13, 2006

Secret minutes of EU-Russia meeting found in bin

EUObserver: The minutes of bilateral meeting between Russia and the EU last month have revealed the struggle to maintain a united EU front towards Moscow in the face of the bloc's energy dependency on its giant neighbour.

Documents from the informal EU summit in Lahti, Finland, last month – together with other top-secret papers – were found in a bin outside the Spanish foreign affairs ministry in Madrid last week, according to Spain's El Pais.

According to the paper, EU leaders agreed over lunch on the day of the meeting to be as unified as possible during a dinner with Russian president Vladimir Putin just a few hours later.

"It is necessary to lead Russia to more constructive positions," German chancellor Angela Merkel suggested to her counterparts.

Italian Romano Prodi stressed "the importance of reinforcing political cooperation and economic interests on the base of a trustworthy provision " in exchange for greater investments in Russia.

The majority of EU leaders called for a more diverse energy supply while Spanish prime minister Jose Louis Zapatero additionally wanted the EU to make it clear to Mr Putin that it wants to see more Russian respect for democratic rights and less aggression towards Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine.

Taking a more pragmatic approach, French president Jacques Chirac warned that "the security and the stability of Europe depend largely on Russia."

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said "it is fundamental that we stay calm, committed and with the sense of unity in our conversations with Putin."

Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt told his colleagues that "it is not necessary to be so on the defence with Putin."

EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana warned EU leaders that energy is becoming a policy instrument and added that all the major oil and gas producing countries are unstable, except for Norway.

UK prime minister Tony Blair and his Dutch counterpart Jan Peter Balkende asked for European leadership in the "narrow relation between climate change and power security," and added that Europe is losing its position ahead of Japan and the US in clean energy technologies.

Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern stated that "in order to speak with a single voice on the outside we must have a common policy of energy and an effective and transparent inner market."
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