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  Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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Russian diplomats will meet the European Union's foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday
Russian diplomats will meet the European Union's foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday to discuss preparations for a new Russia-EU cooperation treaty, but the talks may stumble over an EU-proposed energy agreement. The existing ten-year Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Russia runs out in 2007. However, EU-member Poland may veto the launch of talks on a new deal, over its objections to Russia's trade policy, and Russia's refusal to ratify the Energy Charter. Russia has banned meat imports from Poland citing health risks, and recently cut off oil supplies via the Friendship Pipeline to Lithuania's refinery Mazeikiu Nafta, after it was bought by Poland's PKN Orlen. Russia is also building a natural gas pipeline, Nord Stream, which will pump gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing Central Europe. Other issues on Monday's agenda are Europe's security and defense policy, developments in the Middle East and the Balkans, and the long-running dispute over Iran's controversial nuclear program. Leaders of the 25-nation EU, increasingly concerned over energy security, are pushing for Russia to sign the Energy Charter, which would compel the country to open up its vast reserves and pipelines to European companies and to provide safeguards for investors. EU officials have reportedly warned they will include the main clauses of the charter in their draft of the new PCA treaty, if Russia does not sign the energy document. Moscow has so far resisted, saying the agreement runs counter to its interests. The European Union, which imports a more than quarter of its oil and natural gas from Russia via Ukrainian pipelines, faced a brief disruption last winter when Moscow suspended gas deliveries to Ukraine over a price dispute, sparking doubts over Russia's reliability as a supplier. However, Russia, which has restricted European companies' access to its energy sector, insists that energy security works both ways, and wants Europe to offer purchase safeguards for its energy if it wants Russian producers to guarantee steady deliveries. President Vladimir Putin, who met with EU leaders at an informal summit in the Finnish town of Lahti in late October, assured them that Russia is a reliable energy supplier, but reiterated his refusal to sign the charter in its current form.
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