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The Beslan tragedy changed the European Union's position in regard to the fight against terrorism in Russia a lot
The Beslan tragedy changed the European Union's position in regard to the fight against terrorism in Russia a lot, believes the special representative of the Russian president on relations with the EU, Sergei Yastrzhembsky. "The tragedy in Beslan greatly transformed the perception of the issue of the fight against terrorism on Russian territory," Mr. Yastrzhembsky said at a session of the public committee "Russian in the United Europe." He admitted that not everyone in the European Union sees the situation in the same way as in Moscow. However, in his words, what happened in Beslan caused "an incredible wave of solidarity." "The wish appeared to jointly take actions which would help both Russia and Europe, which recently lived through the horror of Madrid, prevent such barbarous actions," said Mr. Yastrzhembsky. At the same time, in Mr. Yastrzhembsky's opinion, a number of unresolved issues remain in Russia-EU relations. "There are issues on which we do not see progress and even observe an evident regress," he said. "This situation is especially alarming shortly before the State Duma discussion of the ratification of the protocol to the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement [between Russia and the EU]." Mr. Yastrzhembsky said the protocol is the fundamental document of relations between Moscow and the united Europe, as it includes all Russia's main concerns connected with the EU enlargement - in the economic, customs, financial spheres, as well as in what relates to the status of the Kaliningrad region and observance of the rights of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic countries. The special presidential representative believes that "an unhealthy situation" has established in the issues of simplification of the visa procedures between Russia and the European Union. "The current situation in totally unhealthy as regards access of Russians to the European Union territory. EU citizens face the same problems and have to suffer from many bureaucratic procedures near Russian consulates," he said. He stressed the importance of starting talks between Russia and the EU in this sphere. "These talks started the day before yesterday and the first reaction of the Russian side was optimistic. I hope this issue will be resolved quickly," he stressed. He noted that for the first six months of 2004, Russia managed to sign an agreement on simplification of the visa procedures with the European Union's three leading countries - Italy, France and the FRG. "In Europe these agreements caused an ambiguous reaction, including critical, but now it will be easier for us to follow the trodden path. We will be able to prevent the Schengen wall from turning into the Berlin [wall]," said Mr. Yastrzhembsky. He noted that the situation with the status of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic countries demands interference of the European Union. "The situation is urgent, it demands delicate, indirect, diplomatic interference on the part of the EU," said Mr. Yastrzhembsky, stressing that the Russian side does not ask any extraordinary freedoms or privileges for the Russian-speaking population. "We do not want people residing on the EU territory to be divided into the first and second grade," said Mr. Yastrzhembsky. "The situation with the status of the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic countries will not disappear by itself. If the rates of naturalization in Latvia and Estonia are taken into account, this problem will remain for many years to come. Neither Russia, nor the EU are interested in conservation of this problem," said Mr. Yastrzhemsky.
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