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  Tuesday, January 19, 2021
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Today was highlighted by a seminar of the committee "Russia in a United Europe"
Today was highlighted by a seminar of the committee "Russia in a United Europe", which focussed on stratagems to make Russia-EU cooperation more effective. In his report to the seminar, the Russian president's special envoy on the development of relations with the EU, Sergey Yastrzhembsky, noted certain agreements reached with the EU in 2004. He added however that there were areas, above all Kaliningrad freight transit, which showed no progress. It was pointed out in previous agreements with the EU that EU expansion would only make such transit cheaper and easier but reality is quite the opposite, he said. Its increased worth is explained by more expensive broker services from Lithuania and the slowed-down customs cargo clearance due to the reduced number of check-points on the Lithuanian side. As to sanitary control problems, they arise chiefly owing to the incompetence of Lithuanian customs officers. Yastrzhembsky said Moscow had applied at Brussels to consider this problem but no replay has been received. Another painful problem clouding Russian-EU relations is the status of ethnic Russians in Latvia and Estonia where more than 500,000 people have been denied many rights and freedoms. It is not special privileges that Russia is seeking for these people but merely the observance of the Copenhagen agreements in force on the territory of the European Union, he said. The present pace of naturalization for non-citizens in Lithuania and Estonia is such that the process might drag out for decades without EU interference. The ambassador T.P.Hofsti of the Netherlands, the country which is now presiding in the European Union, said that the protection of human rights would be always high on the EU agenda but recommended that the problem should be initially resolved on a bilateral level. As to the Kyoto Protocol, Yastrzhembsky confirmed that Russia would ratify it. He also referred to September 21 as the date when Russia and the European Union embarked on visa issue simplification talks, adding that the first results were optimistic. Yastrzhembsky noted that Russia would like to spend the time left before a Russia-EU summit in the Hague, completing work on four common environments between the Russian Federation and the European Union: economic; internal security and law; external security; science, education and culture. "We should do more for our integration," he said, displaying the regret that the European Union expressed no desire to pass over from generalizations to practical moves. He also suggested holding this October a Moscow meeting of vice-governors of Russian jurisdictions bordering on EU countries so as to discuss wider cooperation. The European Union's major emphasis on regional development under its programme "the Regions of Europe" can help the Russian provinces resolve local problems. Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the parliamentary committee for international affairs, said that the Russian government decided to submit for Duma ratification a protocol to the agreement on partnership and cooperation and promised its early ratification. Touching upon ptoblems in the Kaliningrad region, he divided them into systems and non-systems ones. The former, to his mind, can be easily overcome as they are referred to the discrepancy of valid regulations. The latter, in his opinion, will be more difficult to smooth out-in particular, it is Lithuania's ever deeper bitterness. Its Seym adopted recently a resolution concerning conditions of passenger transit across the territory of Lithuania for Kaliningrad regional residents. In the opinion of Kosachev, it puts in question the implementation of Russia's accords with the European Union and Lithuania on launching a visa-free express train. T.P.Hofti noted in his statement that the European Union is torn by a number of internal problems. In particular, the European Union is after two things simultaneously: geographical expansion and becoming ever stronger as an entity. The ambassador said that relations with Russia were very important for the Europen Union, admitting however that Russia's focus on certain questions, namely, the formation of four spaces, differed from what was on Europe's mind.
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