EU Warns Russia Over Meat Ban



A dispute between Russia and Poland over meat imports is damaging Moscow's relations with Brussels and slowing its accession to the World Trade Organization, the European Union's trade chief said Thursday.

Concerns over the safety of meat and plant products have soured relations between Russia and the European Union for several years and Moscow banned Polish meat and plant products more than a year ago on health grounds.

"The [European] Commission is pressing the Russian authorities very hard to find an agreement with Poland to settle this dispute," EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said.

"It's very important that we do so as soon as possible. It's damaging our overall relations at a time when we want to work together to bring forward Russia 's accession to the WTO," he said on the sidelines of a conference.

The European Union and Russia have a bilateral agreement on Russia 's WTO accession but Mandelson has said Moscow must fix its trade policies towards its neighbors to win final EU approval.

Warsaw says the meat ban is politically motivated, and it has blocked the launch of talks between the bloc and Russia for a broad cooperation pact until it is lifted.

Earlier this month the EU's executive commission said Russia 's detailed complaints about the safety of Polish meat and meat products did not justify any trade ban.

"I hope we can remove these irritants so that we can work harder together to achieve the goal that we both want, which is Russia 's early accession," Mandelson said.