Russia and European Union Hold Summit in St. Petersburg

There are still many problems in the relationship between Russia and the EU
The Russian-EU summit started on Sunday morning in St. Petersburg. This summit will be a very complicated one for President Vladimir Putin. The event is taking place in the Konstantinovsky Palace on the outskirts of St. Petersburg.

Fifteen European leaders are taking part in the meeting, as well as European Commission President Romano Prodi and Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief. The leaders of the would-be European Union members have been invited to participate in the summit as well.

It is expected that President Putin, Romano Prodi and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis (Greece presently chairs the EU) will answer reporters' questions when the summit is over.

Many problems have been saved up in relations between Russia and the European Union.

Moscow wants Europe to take Russia's interests into consideration when new members join the EU. "It is extremely important that the joining of new countries to the partnership agreement between Russia and the EU will not be of an automatic character," Assistant to the President Sergey Prikhodko was quoted by Itar-TASS as saying. Mr. Prikhodko stated that the accession of each country would be accompanied by a ratification-demanding document.

Furthermore, the Russian government insists on the elaboration of a specific plan for the introduction of a visa-free regime for travel to the EU states. However, Europe says that such a thing is only for the distant future The administration of the Russian president understands that visa-free travel will take much effort and many changes. "However, we have to have a progress; this goal may be achieved gradually," the Kremlin official was quoted as saying.

Sergey Prikhodko also made it known who was going to face certain problems at the summit. "Russia is developing partnership relations with the majority of the countries that are going to join the EU bloc, although the policy of Latvia and Estonia concerning the so-called 'on-native population’ causes us to protest very decisively," Prikhodko said in a statement.

In its turn, Europe wants Russia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, a pact aimed at stemming pollution and global warming, but President Putin shifts the blame onto the Russian State Duma, which does not want to do it. Europe is also concerned about the situation with Chechnya, which irritates the Kremlin, the BBC said. Russia accuses the EU of blocking Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization. All these issues will be reflected in the summit declaration.

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Author`s name Michael Simpson