Dr. Jaime Game, the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs, who has just visited Moscow, is receptive to Mr. Ivanov’s idea to create a European/Russia Institute to stimulate bilateral relations between the two federations, the first step towards a deeper understanding between the EU and its giant neighbour on the easternmost edge of the continent. Dr. Gama is going to address this matter during the current week by directing a formal letter to Javier Solana, Security and Defence Commissar of the EU. This Institute will “provide a second phase of construction of the European house”, in Dr. Gama’s words. Moscow and Portugal agree that the OSCE ) Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) will be an important organism to aid a continued dialogue between Russia and NATO. Portugal is to be the President of this Organization in 2002. The Portuguese press paints a rosy picture of the new Russia under President Putin, stating that the climate of political stability created has given wings to an important economic recovery. With a budget surplus for the first time and a 16.5% decrease in inflation to 20%, the trade balance rose to 44 billion USD last year, as growth rates rose from 3.2 to 5.1%. With these figures, EU countries are queuing up to sign contracts with Russia. Dr. Jaime Gama intends to start a new, real period of bilateral relations with Russia as the two countries at either extreme of Europe find what they have to offer each other. For now, an Agreement of Economic, Commercial and Technical Cooperation has been signed and there will be an increase in cultural exchanges and economic links in the next years. The official statement about Dr. Gama’s visit to Moscow is that “Jaime Gama saw directly in Moscow that the credibility of the Portuguese diplomacy is openly recognised without reticence by the Kremlin”. A new, welcome, era of friendship, mutual trust and collaboration begins.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey PRAVDA.Ru Lisbon

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