Russia and EU make some progress

A top Russian envoy said Monday that progress has been made in Moscow's relations with the European Union, but cautioned that many disagreements persist.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky said Russia and the 25-nation bloc could enact a treaty on easing visa restrictions by 2007 as well as reach agreement on Russia readmitting illegal migrants who entered the EU from its territory.

Yastrzhembsky, however, reiterated Russia's complaints that the EU failed to protect the rights of Russian-speaking minorities in ex-Soviet Baltic states. Moscow routinely accuses Latvia and Estonia of discriminating against Russian speakers.

"The EU acts quite timidly and often doesn't take any measures to solve the problem of thousands of hundreds of people have the shameful status of non-citizen," he told.

Yastrzhembsky also defended the German-Russian project to build a natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, a project that has drawn criticism from Poland and the Baltic states.

Then he also praised the decision to invite former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to take a leading position in managing the North European Gas Pipeline, according to the AP.


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