The EU-Russia summit opening today in Helsinki is meant to relaunch dialogue on a range of issues. Russia must be reminded that fulfilling the undertakings it has given to defend basic freedoms, including press freedom, is obligatory.
Poland's veto on talks about a new economic and energy partnership has not left the European Union and Russia without anything to discuss at the Helsinki summit that opens today, as the EU has a duty to remind Russia of its undertakings to defend basic freedoms, Reporters Without Borders said, condemning the tendency to regard human rights as secondary to economic issues. “Many converging factors point to a decline in press freedom in Russia, of which the latest and most dramatic has obviously been the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in broad daylight in Moscow in October,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It brought to 21 the total of journalists killed for doing their job in Russia, in a climate of extremely disturbing impunity, since Vladimir Putin became president in March 2000.” The organisation continued: “Russian society must itself put a stop to this violence and we therefore urge Europe's leaders to remind their Russian counterparts that the international community expects these murders to be solved. We ask in particular that no effort should be spared in identifying the perpetrators and instigators of Politkovskaya's murder. Europe's legitimacy and moral authority and the need to show support for Russia's journalists and human rights activists are all at stake.” Reporters Without Borders added: “Russia is one of the signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights. It is also a member of the Council of Europe, and held its presidency until 15 November. It has therefore signed an explicit undertaking to respect and protect human rights. We urge the European authorities, as guarantors of respect for these values, to remind Russia that compliance with this undertaking is obligatory.” The EU-Russia summit was supposed to discuss the terms of a new economic partnership, as the current one expires at the end of next year, but Poland vetoed the opening of talks because of a Russian embargo on Poland's meat and vegetable exports. Russia has responded by threatening to embargo all European meat from the start of next year, when Bulgaria and Romania join the EU.