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The European Union issued a gentle timely reminder to Russia over the need to protect human rights and maintain the rule of law today as the British police service began reading a dossier drawn up by poisoned Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko about the Russian government's takeover of energy company Yukos.
Mr. Litvinenko, who was investigating the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, died in a London hospital last week from suspected radiation poisoning.
As reported in recent issues of Business Insurance Europe, risk experts within the EU and worldwide are becoming increasingly worried about the continued rise in organized crime and apparent unwillingness or inability of President Vladimir Putin's government to tackle the problem head on.
The recent murders of central banker Andrei Kozlov, who was attempting to clean-up the Russian banking sector, and Ms. Politkovskaya, who was reporting on supposed atrocities carried out by Russian armed forces in Chechenya, have fuelled concerns about the rule of law in Russian.
The current Finnish presidency of the EU has focused on improving relations and trade flows between the EU and Russia partly to help the country deal with its problems.
There have been four ministerial-level meetings of the Partnership Council and a number of expert meetings. Last week, Finland hosted a two day summit chaired by the President of the European Council, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen. The Russian delegation was lead by Mr. Putin.
The EU said that it was a positive meeting and that relations between the EU and Russia had developed in many areas over the past half-year.
It pointed out that flows of trade and investment between the EU and Russia are steadily increasing and urged continued joint action to improve the business and investment environment in order to "exploit the full potential of economic relations."
The EU said that cooperation in the critical energy sector in which Yukos is such a major player is based on a positive interdependence. It did, however, also stress the need for transparency and reciprocity. "The energy sector needs to function in a transparent, predictable way, based on reciprocity.
The EU's positive words were again laced, however, with a warning to Russia. "The EU stressed the need to respect human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law in all areas of cooperation," it said.
The EU reported that the leaders also stressed the importance of cooperation on international issues for the security and welfare of the whole of Europe and urged more "concrete" action mentioning Georgia with which Russia is currently in dispute over energy supply, Belarus and Moldova.