ST. PETERSBURG, April 1 (RIA Novosti) - The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is not a mechanism for European integration, but a heavy burden on Russia's resources. This is according to Mikhail Margelov, chair of the international relations committee in the Federation Council, or Russia's upper house of parliament.

Speaking at a press conference in St. Petersburg Friday, Mr Margelov pointed out that almost all of the CIS member states relied on Russia for economic support, but that the political benefits Russia got in return were disproportionately small. He said that the privileges and the preferential treatment provided by Russia for its fellow CIS members were taken for granted by most of them, like had been the case in the Soviet era. Also, while enjoying Russia's economic support, former Soviet republics continue efforts to capitalize on their geopolitical position. Many seek membership in major Western alliances, and make no secret about integration with such blocs being more important to them than their ties with Russia, the MP pointed out. The only reward Russia gets from its generous support for its fellow CIS members is that they form a security belt, thereby making Russia's borders less vulnerable to outside trespassers. "But they incrementally become part of other security systems, oriented toward countries other than Russia," he lamented.

Given the above, it would be in the best interest of both Russia and the European Union to have a treaty on Russo-Latvian and Russo-Estonian borders concluded as soon as possible. Between Russia and Estonia, there is only a de facto border, following the administrative boundary that separated the two adjacent republics in the Soviet era. It is high time this border was consolidated in a legal act, said Mr Margelov. According to him, the drafting of the border treaty has nearly been completed by now, and there are only some minor technical details yet to be finalized.

The Russian lawmakersaid he did not expect any serious problems to hurdle the signing of that accord. He reemphasized the importance of the speediest possible conclusion by saying that Russia and the European Union may not have between them any de juro borders that are not solidified in legislation.

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