The current agreement runs out this year and can be extended, but EU officials said that failure to start negotiations would be an embarrassment for both sides.

Barroso said he saw "no reasons for a ban against Polish meat. If there was a reason we would not allow Polish meat to circulate in the EU." 

"We had occasion to say to our Russian partners that a difficulty for a member state is a difficulty for the whole European community," he added.

Solidarity

"The Polish problem is a European problem. The Lithuanian and Estonia problems are also EU problems. It is very important if you want to have close co-operation to understand that the EU is based on principles of solidarity."

"We had occasion to say to our Russian partners that a difficulty for a member state is a difficulty for the whole European community"

Jose Manuel Barroso,
European Commission president
Putin responded that the EU should solve its "internal problems" and Kremlin officials said that Russia has already made sufficient  concessions to Poland and is waiting for a response.

The Russian president also accused Estonia and Latvia of violating the rights of Russian speakers in the two Baltic nations.

"Violations of the rights of the Russian-speaking population" in the two countries are "unacceptable and unworthy of Europe," he said.

Moscow's relations with Estonia have deteriorated since the Baltic state moved a Soviet-era war memorial from the centre of its capital and continued after attacks on the country's websites.

The Kremlin has denied claims it was waging a "cyber-war" to disable Estonia's internet infrastructure.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner, suggested upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia could be partly to blame for the frosty relations with European nations.
  
"Russia is in a pre-election period so maybe nationalistic feelings are coming up. But at the same time there are questions that have to be solved in a constructive spirit," she said.

Opposition stopped

The atmosphere at the talks was also soured when Russian opposition leaders, including former chess champion Garry Kasparov, were stopped from travelling to the region to hold a protest calling for democratic reforms.

"I'm concerned about some people getting problems in travelling here. I hope they will be given an opportunity to express their opinion," Merkel said.

One member of the The Other Russia coalition said he had been told the flight was overbooked while Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed transport police official as saying that the hold-up was caused by a discrepancy between the ticket and the passport of one of the  leaders.
  
"Not one member of The Other Russia delegation... was allowed to board," Denis Bilunov, Kasparov's spokesman, told the AFP news agency.
  
Lev Ponomaryov, another opposition activist who was scheduled to have boarded the flight, said he suspected foul play.
  
"Uniformed men have taken our passports. They've taken 13 passports. I consider this is a criminal offence."
  
A presidential spokesman denied Kremlin involvement.