Sweden’s traditionally tenuous relationship with Russia has once again jumped into the limelight after Moscow objected to Swedish plans to hold a major EU-Russian summit in Stockholm. The tit-for-tat objection came on the very first day of Sweden’s turn at the helm of the EU presidency.
The Local reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is insisting the EU-Russia summit take place in Brussels, not in Stockholm, because Russia feels Brussels is a more neutral location. The EU-Russia summit happens twice each year, and usually alternates between the country currently holding the EU presidency and Russia.
The last summit just happened in May in the far-east Russian city of Khabarovsk, but no date has been set for the next one. Relations between Russia and Sweden have been particularly strained lately due to Sweden’s vocal denunciations of Russia’s human rights record.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also stirred things up with his harsh criticism of the brief fight between Russia and Georgia last August. Bildt went so far as to compare Russia’s actions with those of Hitler. A 2008 Swedish-Polish initiative to create a new EU “Eastern Partnership” that would help Europe boost its relations with six former Soviet-bloc states is another thorn in Russia’s side.
However, the Russians need Sweden’s approval to get the North Stream gas pipeline project online, which would allow Russia to export its gas into Germany via the Baltic Sea. Sweden is holding up the project as Stockholm insists on getting environmental guarantees from Russia, and is probably the real reason behind the latest Russian snub.