PRESIDENT PUTIN TO MEET WITH EC DELEGATION

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MOSCOW, April 22 (RIA Novosti) - On Thursday in the Kremlin President Putin will meet with members of the European Commission, the supreme executive body of the EU, which will come to Russia for talks with the Russian government at an enlarged session.

According to a source in the Kremlin, the sides "plan to discuss routine issues of Russia-EU relations, above all Russia's concern in the context of the EU expansion."

During the Wednesday visit to Lipetsk, Vladimir Putin said at a press conference that he does not see insurmountable obstacles in connection with the EU expansion. "There is no big or impossible problem here," he said. "What problems we have, can be settled through dialogue openly and constructively. Practice shows that there is an adequate solution to all problems." The president pointed out that the EU expansion has put "them [EU countries] in a difficult situation."

The Russian Foreign Ministry plans to use the EU expansion to solve the problems of Russian speakers in the Baltic countries. Addressing the State Duma at a special session on the EU expansion on Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov pointed to the importance of the fact that the EU not just admits the existence of the problem but also views the situation of Russian speakers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as unfavourable (though to a different degree in each of the three states).

Chizhov believes that the EU should take over responsibility for the solution of this problem now. "We do not demand that these countries do more than international organisations request," he said. "There is a set of official recommendations of these organisations but, regrettably, they are not fulfilled."

The deputy minister also warned against excessive optimism: "It would be short-sighted to expect that all problems of Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic countries will be solved before their accession to the EU on May 1."

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