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    ROMANO PRODI SPEAKS IN MOSCOW ON RUSSIAN-EU STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP

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    MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - Heading a EU Commission group on a routine visit to Russia, Romano Prodi met with Federation Council member Vassily Likhachev who had until recently been Russia's ambassador to the European Commission.

    Romano Prodi spoke highly of his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.

    The head of the European Commission sees no alternative to Russian-EU strategic partnership. Though some disputable issues (Kaliningrad transit, the Kyoto protocol and some others) are still there, they can be settled, including those that are connected with the expansion of the European Union (the latter is to be officially jointed by ten new members from among East and Central European countries on May 1) He laid emphasis on the necessity of working, even if for quite a long period, over visa-free movement in the Russian-European environment.

    Vassily Likhachev told Romano Prodi about Federation Council policies, the development of parliamentary diplomacy and contacts with the European Parliament.

    The senator pointed to major prospects for wider economic and cultural links between Russian regions and the European Union and the significance of humanitarian aid from the UNO, EU and Federation Council for Russia's North Caucasian autonomies of Ingushetia and Chechnya. Romano Prodi supported Likhachev's idea of the presentation of Ingushetia in the European Parliament in 2004-2005.

    Meanwhile, the State Duma plans to consider on April 29 a draft statement on relationships between Russia and the European Union, according to the senator's colleague of the same surname Alexey Likhachev, a Duma deputy, head of the working group on state regulation of foreign economic activity.

    Likhachev noted that today's session of the working group with the participation of Maxim Medvedkov, heading the Russian delegation at Russia's WTO admission talks, also dealt with the economic aspect of European Union expansion.

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