NO OBSTACLES TO CLOSER RUSSIA-EU RAPPROCHEMENT: DUTCH PREMIER

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THE HAGUE, November 24 (RIA Novosti) - There are no obstacles whatsoever to an ever closer Russia-EU rapprochement, says Jan Peter Balkenende, European Council President and Prime Minister of the Netherlands, current European Union chair country.

Both partners are to win mutual confidence and see what either is gaining with it. That is what Russia and the EU are doing now, he said in a Novosti interview.

Will Russia become full EU member someday? As he was answering the question, Mr. Balkenende remarked that the Union was open to whatever European country up to political and economic standards the EU adopted in Copenhagen. However, Russia has not said to this day it is pondering the prospects of joining the European Union, he pointed out.

That is why the Parties are working now for closer strategic partnership on the basis of four united environments. The efforts will get both onto the right road-in fact, they will have made considerable progress on it.

European Union countries' firm political, economic and cultural links with Russia started centuries ago. Contacts are active again with the Cold War over.

Thus, firm educational and cultural ties promise fine fruit, suffice it to mention a European Institute, to be set up in Moscow.

Energy dialogue is another crucial aspect of Russia-EU contacts, pointed out Mr. Balkenende.

A recent conference in The Hague brought a paper to sum up achievements in that field. It highlighted four negotiation priorities-efficiency of power industry, capital investment in it, energy infrastructure, and commercial arrangements. Both Parties' experts will work on those priorities within the months to come. They will eventually offer a programme of action to be introduced next year.

Of notice in economic contacts are streamlined transits from and to the Kaliningrad Region, Russia's Baltic exclave. Talks on the issue are well underway. The European Union has vouched to grant 25 million Euro for project implementation in that part of Russia within several next years.

The European Union is presently Russia's crucial commercial and economic partner, and many companies based in its countries are investing in the Russian economy. All that comes as testimony of the European entrepreneurial world pinning great hopes on Russia's economic future, added the Prime Minister.

The Russia-European Union summit is gathering in The Hague tomorrow, November 25.

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