‘Don’t try to divide us,’ EU warns Russia as summit ends in disarray
Saturday May 19, 2007
The European commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, told the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, that any action against an individual EU state would be considered action against the entire EU.
His unambiguous comments came amid a bitter dispute between Russia and Estonia – and claims Russia had waged an unprecedented cyber-attack on its small Baltic neighbour. "We had occasion to say to our Russian partners that a difficulty for a member state is a difficulty for the whole European Union," Mr Barroso said. "It is very important if you want to have close cooperation to understand that the EU is based on principles of solidarity."
Other disagreements yesterday included the future of Kosovo – with Russia implacably opposed to a UN-drafted plan for independence – and relations between Russia and its Baltic neighbours. Russia and Estonia have been embroiled in their worst bilateral crisis since Estonia won independence from the Soviet Union, after Estonia moved a monument to Red Army soldiers. Lithuania is unhappy that Russia has switched off an oil pipeline.
Mr Putin hit back yesterday, accusing some EU states of "economic selfishness that does not always correspond to the EU’s interests". In a clear reference to Poland, he said: "We are aware of the EU position on the need for solidarity. I asked my colleagues, and they did not take offence, are there any limits to this solidarity?" He said it was unreasonable of the EU to expect Russia not to defend its interests.
The EU is not the only power struggling to manage relations with an increasingly assertive Kremlin. Moscow has clashed with the US over plans to put part of a missile defence shield in eastern Europe.
At a news conference after the talks at a resort near Samara in Russia, the leaders were stiff and avoided eye contact. Mr Putin stared ahead when the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Mr Barroso spoke on sensitive subjects. The two sides claimed they made progress on some relatively non-controversial issues.Quote