Russia to seek solution to visa issues at EU summit

The Russia-EU summit opening today in Rome will become one of the most difficult summits for Russia's relations with greater Europe.

"This will be a difficult summit to consider not abstract issues but very serious specific matters directly involving the interests of Russian and EU citizens," a high-level Kremlin official told RIA Novosti.

Besides, it will be the last summit before the EU's enlargement due in six months.

As before, Russia's main concern is the facilitation of the visa regime. We understand that visa-free regime is not something to happen soon because neither Russia nor Europe are ready yet to lift visa barriers, the source continued. "It is a long-term task, and we should take heed of all EU requirements. We are prepared for serious efforts," the source added.

According to the Kremlin spokesman, "the EU seems to agree with these formulations but we have not seen any specific actions or proposals coming from our partners just yet." "The first and the only session of the joint group for visas took place on September 13. In a word, the work on this problem is stagnated for the moment." As a positive example of co-operation in the visa policy the source cited the agreement between Russia and Germany on segment facilitation of the visa regime in regard to students, scientists and pensioners. "This model can well be applied within the EU," the source said.

Another serious problem to be addressed at the Rome summit is the EU's enlargement, or rather its negative consequences for Russia.

"For two years Russia has been suggesting that a plan of compensating the possible damage from the EU's enlargement be drawn up," the source said. In his words, this first of all refers to bilateral economic relations with the prospective EU members. "Since these agreements are to be denounced, there is a risk of serious damage to Russia-EU economic relations," the source emphasised.

The same is true about quotas for Russia's supplies of different commodities - steel, wood, etc. - to EU countries. "The size of quotas does not grow in proportion with the increasing number of EU members, and this causes concern." The summit will raise the issue of Russia's accession to the WTO. "The European Commission's demand for free access to Russia's pipeline grid will not be highlighted," the source added. "We have said everything in Yekaterinburg." Speaking at the Russo-German intergovernmental consultations in Yekaterinburg this October, Vladimir Putin in particular said that gas transit through Russia's pipeline grid should be discussed at the state level.

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