Eu, Russia Trade Barbs Ahead Of Key Summit

Russia beats Luxembourg, stays on track for WCup

A Finnish minister resigned on Friday over a row about a Greenpeace protest last year. Putin has said the activists were not pirates but that they had violated international law. The head of the Kremlin’s advisory body on human rights has said he would ask prosecutors to withdraw the piracy charges. Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International, has written to President Vladimir Putin asking to meet him and offering to stand as security in Russia for the release of the activists on bail. Putin’s spokesman said the letter, published in Western media on Wednesday, had not yet arrived at the Kremlin, and said it was unlikely to affect the legal process. “(Putin) probably cannot get involved in a discussion about the investigative activity that is taking place,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters. MINISTER RESIGNS Investigators have said more charges will be pressed against some protesters after drugs and other suspect items were found on the boat, the Arctic Sunrise. Greenpeace denies there were illegal items aboard. Greenpeace, whose activists tried to scale the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya rig, says the protest was peaceful and calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded. Those arrested include American, Argentinian, Australian, Brazilian, Canadian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, New Zealand, Swedish, Swiss, Polish, Turkish and Ukrainian citizens. In neighboring Finland, a government minister who had appeared sympathetic to Greenpeace in a separate Arctic protest, resigned. Heidi Hautala, minister for international development who is also in charge of overseeing state ownership of companies, was criticized by colleagues and the media for trying to dissuade state-owned shipping firm Arctia Shipping from filing a criminal complaint against the protest group. Protesters scaled an Arctia icebreaker, contracted by Shell, in Helsinki last year to demonstrate against Arctic drilling.

No. Virtually all of Eastern Europe is going through a period of severe economic weakness. Poland, everyones favorite post-communist wunderkind, grew by 1.9% in 2012 and is forecast to grow by as little as 1.1% in 2013. Slovakia, which was also lauded for its determined economic reforms and its export-led growth model, had a similarly poor performance. It grew by 1.8% in 2012 and is forecast to grow by about 1% in 2013. So, even in its currently weakened state, Russias economy is actually performing better than those of many other countries in the region. Nonetheless, continued stagnation of industrial production will eventually become a pretty serious problem. Oil prices arent going to increase forever, and even if Russia never become an export powerhouse if it wants to play an important international role it cannot have an industrial sector that is permanently frozen in early 2012. The Russian government has actually been following a very prudent and inflation-adverse monetary policy, but it has shown almost no interest in the sort of supply-side reforms that would spur investment and, eventually, improvements in productivity and production. It can, of course, continue to eschew those reforms, but if it does so then it should expect to see more of the same uninspiring performance. Russia always seems to draw out extremely heated opinions: the country is either imploding or poised to take over Europe . The reality is usually a lot more boring. But while the stagnation of Russias industrial production isnt the worst thing ever it is, even in a relatively optimistic analysis such as my 0wn, a big deal.

Portugal could still pull level with Russia in next week’s last qualifiers but the Russians have scored seven more goals than the Portuguese, giving them the decisive edge. The draw in Lisbon ensured Portugal at least a place in the playoff between the best eight second-place teams in the nine European qualifying groups. Bulgaria’s 2-1 defeat against Armenia in Group B meant Portugal has enough points for a playoff berth. Russia powered past Luxembourg with first-half goals from Alexander Samedov, Victor Faizulin and Denis Glushakov. Alexander Kerzhakov got another in the 73rd. “We have played a very good match, on high speed and with great desire,” Russia coach Fabio Capello said. “We’ve reached our goal.” Portugal, a 2012 European Championship semifinalist, failed to impress against Israel in what has been a lackluster qualifying campaign, with Cristiano Ronaldo producing a muted performance in the Portuguese capital. A blunder by goalkeeper Rui Patricio cost Portugal victory as his 85th-minute clearance went straight to Ben Basat, who canceled out Ricardo Costa’s 27th-minute strike. The game was tense to the end as a below-par Portuguese team held onto its slender lead. Portugal’s qualification bid went off track earlier in the campaign with a 1-1 home draw against Northern Ireland and a 3-3- draw in Israel, and Friday’s lukewarm match was reminiscent of those displays. The Portuguese defense was depleted by the absence of three regular starters, but its attack was the weakest point and the team struggled to find its rhythm going forward. More Soccer

Russia’s Economic Slowdown In One Chart

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine repeatedly and bluntly that it will have to bear the consequences of such a choice. Analysts say the rising tensions make any progress difficult ahead of the summit in Lithuania, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency. Ties “have suffered for quite some time from a lack of trust and eroded goodwill, especially on the Russian side,” said Jan Techau, Director of the Carnegie Europe think tank in Brussels. “Moscow sees the EU’s neighbourhood policy as an attack on its own geopolitical interests and has systematically bullied countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia to take a more anti-EU posture,” he added. The EU, speaking for 28 member states, has found it difficult to counter “Russia’s hard-headed zero-sum approach to the region,” making the Eastern Partnership summit a key test. The Vilnius summit “will show whether the EU is willing to compete with Russia in a more straight-forward way, whether it is willing to play hardball on political reform in the transition countries and whether it is willing to put the required money and political capital where its mouth is,” Techau said. On Monday, Russia cited health concerns to ban all dairy imports from Lithuania which has led the way for better ties between the ex-Soviet states and the EU. The EU said in response it had “confidence in the safety of Lithuanian dairy products” and reminded Moscow again that it had to stick to World Trade Organization rules. On Thursday, Brussels asked the WTO to rule on a dispute over a “recycling fee” on vehicles imported from the EU but not on those from Kazakhstan and Belarus which are members of Russia’s customs union. “We’ve used all the possible avenues to find … a mutually acceptable solution,” EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said. “We are left with no choice but to ask for a WTO ruling to ensure Russia complies with its international obligations,” De Gucht added. The EU’s WTO complaint, lodged in July, must be galling — it is the first against Russia since it joined the global free trade body in 2012 after years of difficult negotiations which Putin said were sometimes humiliating. The response from Moscow was forthright.