On Russia-EU Collaboration

Questions of Russia-EU collaboration and the development of border cooperation will stand high on the agenda of the two-day visit by Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Helsinki beginning today, RIA was told in the Russian Foreign Ministry on May 8. In Helsinki Ivanov will meet with his colleague Erkki Toumioja and President Tarja Halonen. The spokesman of the Russian foreign ministry said about Russia-EU collaboration that Finland is the only EU member country that has a border with Russia and hence bilateral relations reflect the whole gamut of Russia-EU collaboration issues. In addition, Finland frequently speaks up as a kind of patron of the Baltic states. Another issue on the agenda is the enlargement of the EU and NATO. However, Tarja Halonen has formulated Finland's position on that issue by saying that Finland cannot support the striving of the Baltic states to join NATO as eagerly as it is supporting their desire to become EU members. The sides will also discuss regional cooperation, in particular Finland's involvement in the development of the border infrastructure. It is not by chance that Ivanov's visit will begin with trip to Petrozavodsk, where he will meet with the leaders of the Russian republic of Karelia, and a trip to Joensuu, Finland, which sees itself as the main partner of Petrozavodsk. This will enable the Russian side to touch upon practical issues of regional cooperation at the talks with the Finnish leadership. Finland's interest for the region is very large, the foreign ministry spokesman said. There are about 100 joint projects underway in the adjacent regions, financed by Finland and local and regional administrations. This cooperation covers mostly Karelia, the Murmansk Region and St. Petersburg, but other Russian regions have expressed interest for these projects, too. The sides will also discuss international issues, above all ABM and strategic stability as a whole. The spokesman said Finland had not yet made clear-cut statements on its stand on the US NMD plans. The delegations will also focus on trade and economic cooperation. The Russian side believes that the current trade of some 5.2 billion dollars is not sufficient and hopes to extend it. But this calls for the improvement of the investment climate in Russia and for the solution of some problems related to limitations on certain Russian commodities, imposed by Finland as an EU member.

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