President Putin flies to Brussels to attend Russia-E.U. summit

On Monday, Vladimir Putin leaves for Brussels to attend the Russia-European Union summit. Initially, the meeting was to be held in the capital of Denmark, the country that presides over the EU, but was moved to Brussels because of Copenhagen's decision to host a so-called World Chechen Congress on the day when Russia mourned the victims of the terrorist act in Moscow.

The Brussels summit will be a "serious ordeal to the maturity of Russia-EU relations," as Sergei Prikhodko, the deputy head of the presidential administration, told RIA Novosti in an interview.

The sides have "made considerable progress in the effort to solve the problem of Kaliningrad," said the Kremlin spokesman, adding that in the course of the summit, they would sign a document that "regulates transit communication between Kaliningrad and other Russian regions." According to Prikhodko, the sides keep working on the document, and this work keeps moving "in the direction of Russia's interests." At the same time, Alexander Yakovenko, the official spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, stressed in a RIA Novosti interview that failure to solve the problem of Kaliningrad could become "a stumbling-block" during negotiations for adding new members of the European Union to the Treaty of Partnership and Cooperation between Russia and the EU.

According to Yakovenko's words, Moscow relies on the assumption that lawful interests of Russian citizens, who have a right to free movement between the Kaliningrad region and the main part of Russia, will be taken into account in the process of negotiations for a compromise as well as demands made by Lithuania and the EU. What Russia wants is to "keep a visa-free transit regime for Russian citizens travelling by train from or to the Kaliningrad region via Lithuania," said the spokesman.

On his part, Prikhodko too emphasized that adoption of a document regulating transit communication between Kaliningrad and other Russian regions would not mean that the problem is solved. According to his account, there are other issues to be solved in the next six months -- transport communication, automobile traffic on the territory of Lithuania, etc.

Prikhodko did not rule out that the sides to the summit would discuss the possibility of providing Russian travellers with an opportunity to move within the boundaries of a united Europe without visas. He said European leaders had acknowledged the relevance and timeliness of the issue raised by the Russian leadership. However, addition of European countries to the Schengen zone proved that the process is likely to take years, considering that it is also necessary to close the borders against illegal migrants.

The Kaliningrad problem is certainly one of the most important items on the agenda, but it is not the only one.

Other issues that will be discussed during the summit include joint Russian-EU measures to combat terrorism, illegal migration and organized crime. Apart from that, the sides will sum up the results of the five-year cooperation between Russia and the EU (the Treaty of Partnership and Cooperation was signed five years ago) and discuss trade and economic cooperation, further development of the energy dialogue, and support of Russia in its effort to join the World Trade Organization.

A separate bloc unites international issues - the situation in the Mideast and around Iraq and, possibly, Indo-Pakistani relations and relations between the EU and Ukraine and the EU and Belarus.

According to Prikhodko, the sides will not sign any documents during the summit, but may adopt a final Declaration.

After the Russia-EU forum, Vladimir Putin will hold a meeting with NATO Secretary-General George Robertson to discuss joint activities in the framework of the Twenty and the upcoming NATO summit in Prague.

The Russian president will also have a "working breakfast" with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. After that, on Monday evening, he will move on to Norway for a working visit.

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