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President Putin (center) with Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (right) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (left) in Helsinki on November 24 (epa)
November 24, 2006 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Union leaders are holding talks today at a summit in Helsinki.
The summit was originally planned to include the start of talks on a new EU-Russia Partnership and Cooparation Agreement. But EU member Poland has blocked the negotiations to protest a Russian ban on Polish agricultural-product imports.
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner downplayed the significance of the Polish veto for the summit.
"We have I-don't-know-how-many things to discuss," she said. "We are working together [with Russia] on the Middle East, on Iran, [and] on North Korea. I mean, there are so many issues."
The summit also follows Moscow's threat to ban all EU meat, fish, and dairy imports because of concerns about food safety in Romania and Bulgaria, which are to join the EU on January 1.
Putin said on November 23 that the EU had not consulted with Russia on plans to accept Romania and Bulgaria as members. He said Moscow is worried that substandard meat from the two countries could reach Russia through other EU member states.
(compiled from agency reports)
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