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Russia looks to better EU cooperation under new presidency

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President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday he hoped Russia's ties with the European Union would gain new momentum when Portugal took over the rotating EU presidency from Germany July 1.
MOSCOW, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday he hoped Russia's ties with the European Union would gain new momentum when Portugal took over the rotating EU presidency from Germany July 1.

Speaking at talks with Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, Putin said: "We expect that a new impetus will be given to Russia's relations with European partners in the second part of this year, when Portugal becomes EU chairman."

Russia and the EU failed to launch talks on a new cooperation pact at a summit in Russia earlier in May over Poland's veto imposed in the wake of a Russian ban on meat exports, which Poland called political. The summit was also marred by an exchange of human right criticisms and Europe's concerns about Russia's energy policy.

Referring to a confiscated shipment of Polish meat in Germany recently, Putin said: "I will meet with [Chancellor] Angela Merkel in Germany soon [at a G8 summit in early June]. I will not tell her 'You do not want this meat, but want to feed it to us.' I will not say that."

Putin said the dispute with Poland should not overshadow Russia-Europe cooperation on the whole. He said Russia had refused imports of poor quality meat via Poland from third countries, but suggested opening its market to some Polish producers. "This is a quite clear signal of our willingness to cooperate and hold talks on this issue."

Socrates said Portugal would push for signing the partnership deal with Russia during its EU presidency. And echoing Putin's remarks that dialogue with Europe should be without arrogant lecturing to Russia on democracy, he said they should develop a relationship "without teaching each other morals."

Putin said it was not correct to differentiate between Europe and Russia as "nice and sweet partners" and those from "woods with hooves and horns."

Socrates said the makeup of the delegation accompanying him, which included business leaders, "reflects new ambitions for our relations in politics, as well as economics."

Bilateral trade between Russia and Portugal has reached nearly $1.5 billion, according to the Kremlin.

At talks in the Kremlin that lasted two and a half hours, Putin also said Europe's refusal to ratify a re-drafted arms reduction treaty, and its acceptance of U.S. missile shield plans threaten to turn the continent into a "powder keg."

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