Putin suggests EU heads of state consider Russia's new integration initiative

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has suggested that European Union heads of state should examine Moscow's new integration initiative, RIA Novosti was told at the Kremlin's press-service.

This proposal is contained in messages sent by the Russian president to the chairman of the Commission of European Communities and heads of EU member-countries on problems concerned with existence of the Kaliningrad region (an enclave on the Baltic) as the European Union expands.

The messages focus on Russia's firm intention to work towards deeper coordination with the EU, which is gradually acquiring the real contours of a strategic partnership. "Its main goal is to turn Europe into a continent of peace without any dividing lines, which presupposes Russia's deep integration into a common European economic, legal and humanitarian space," the messages say.

The president emphasised that "it is becoming obvious today that a further development of this particular process calls for mutual freedom of travel by citizens of Russia and EU member-countries". "It is in the broad context of Russia's European choice, of all-European security and cooperation," he indicated, "that it is necessary to view the question of guaranteeing unimpeded transit of people and cargoes between the Kaliningrad region and the rest of the territory of our country. A speedy achievement of mutually acceptable understandings to this effect can give a new political impulse to relations between Russia and the European Union and raise them to a qualitatively higher level".

In this connection Putin suggested that EU heads of state should consider "Russia's new integration initiative, which provides for raising an ambitious objective to a practical plane: transition in the future to a non-visa system of mutual trips by citizens of Russia and the European Union". "Expressing a readiness for constructive cooperation for the sake of this goal," the messages say, "Russia expects that adequate account will be taken of its national interests, connected with the guaranteeing of free communication with one of its constituent members, which, as willed by history, may soon find itself inside EU territory. This major political issue determines not only the real conditions for existence of the Kaliningrad region as an inalienable part of the Russian Federation, but also to a considerable extent the further vector of our relations with an expanding European Union." The president expressed hope that by a November Russia-EU summit in Copenhagen the joint efforts will result in mutually acceptable accords on the Kaliningrad issue.

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