Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Putin’s power games and climate-change energy issues set to dominate Lahti summit, with the arrival of Russia’s president set to conclude the Finnish summit.  

European diplomats in Brussels have expressed concerns that the summit in Lahti could become a show of European disunity in regard to its relations with Russia, which has signed bilateral gas deals with several European countries such as Germany, which has been criticised for its bilateral deal with Russia to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic.

European diplomats have said that President Putin is unlikely to accept criticism of Russia and “would not take lectures from the Europeans in regard to human rights”, which is likely to lead to “very lively” discussions.

New member states from Eastern Europe favor a much tougher stand – Finland is also likely to raise the matter of tensions between Russia and Georgia, as well as the subject of the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Meanwhile, British and Dutch Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Jan Peter Balkenende will be promoting climate change as the key issue, as they warn that the world is only 10-15 years away from “a catastrophic tipping point”.

"If Russia is not prepared to ratify the charter in its current form, it's time to start changing wordings we cannot accept," said Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin's aide in charge of EU ties. "There are no other options."

 Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said: "It is important for the EU to speak with one voice, stressing our interdependence in terms of energy. Russia needs our markets, we need its energy. But this relationship must be built on openness and reciprocity. The EU market is open to Russia but we expect the same openness from them." 

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso: "We must address all issues: of course human rights, and of course rule of law — especially freedom of expression. We must do so with a common voice." 

European Liberal Democrat (ALDE) leader Graham Watson, in an open letter to President Putin, published in Russian newspapers Novaya Gazeta and Nezavisimaya Gazeta, spoke of his party’s “deep concern” that “…the killing of the prominent and independent journalist, Anna Politkovskaya on 7th October is one of dozens of high profile assassinations of media personnel, nearly all of which go unpunished and unresolved, leading to a situation which is stifling freedom of thought and opinion in Russia.” "The next generation agreement between the EU and Russia," Watson added, "must be based on a stronger common understanding of democracy and human rights."

Russian President Vladimir Putin will arrive at the conclusion of the one-day Lahti summit on 20 October embroiled in controversy, with a ‘lively’ dinner debate looming on the Union's energy relationship with Moscow and the murder of independent journalist Anna Politkovskaya on 7 October 2006 underlining accusations of his country’s poor human rights record. 

EU leaders will be hoping to present a united front in calling for an equal energy partnership with Russia, but Moscow remains intransigent in its refusal to sign up to the transit protocol of the energy charter treaty, which would give third parties access to the pipelines of Gazprom, the Russian energy group.

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