RUSSIA & EU TO GO WITHOUT VISAS? INTERIM AGREEMENT MAY SETTLE IT: PRODI

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MOSCOW, April 22 (RIA Novosti) - The European Union may make an interim agreement with Russia to shift to visa-free reciprocal travel, Romano Prodi, European Commission President, said to a news conference, following negotiations with Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

Visas are an involved matter, but the EU and Russia have determined to go without them, and they can make an interim agreement, which will promote the basic work. Negotiations on the prospects are to start even within the year, said Signor Prodi.

In long-term prospects, a transition to visa-free travel will come as practical proof of either Party really eager for a Europe with no demarcation lines-but that will be a long job. Mutual confidence must be built up first, he stressed.

To make progress toward that goal, talks must finish within the year for an agreement on illegal immigrant readmission. Both Parties find it an essential issue.

Russia and the EU are also to work out common strategies to develop the Kaliningrad Region, Russia's Baltic exclave.

The Parties have considered many options to settle the Kaliningrad issue. The European Union is willing to take upon itself economic pledges for the region's progress, and expects the efforts to come to both sides' benefit.

"We see why Russia is focussing attention on transits-but, in the final analysis, we are all interested to see the Kaliningrad Region an affluent and open area," Romano Prodi went on.

He hopes next month will settle many involved issues of Russia's desired membership of the World Trade Organisation. Both Parties are making efforts to settle such issues-in particular, fuel and energy tariffs, and Siberian aviation transfer. All those are essential matters, especially domestic fuel price formation and international market prices. The issues have been on the agenda for quite a long time.

As for ethnic minorities' problems in the post-Soviet Baltics, these are to be settled in compliance with international norms and EU countries' principles, which presuppose respect for minorities' rights, stressed Signor Prodi.

The theme was in the foreground of his negotiations on the Russian top, he added.

No doubt, ethnic minorities' problems breed specific relations, which cannot demand a special Russia-EU treaty. However, the problem demands the greatest possible attention, and both Parties realise it quite well, said the European Commission President.

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