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    MOSCOW WORRIES OVER STATUS OF ETHNIC RUSSIANS IN NEW EU MEMBERS

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    MOSCOW, April 23 (RIA Novosti) - Out of 14 disputes on the list of Russia's worries over EU expansion, 13 have been lifted or are on the point of being lifted, reports a source close to Russian-EU pertinent talks.

    "Solutions either have been attained on 13 issues or are likely to be attained in the period left before the signing of a protocol (extending the validity of the Russia-EU agreement on partnership and cooperation to new ten members of the European Union)," he said.

    The only item, according to him, which is in suspense is the status of ethnic Russians in the countries joining the European Union (this applies above all to Estonia and Latvia).

    "There is a kind of hitch. The current 15 EU members unconditionally share our vision of this problem but some of the countries now joining the European Union disagree with the presence of such an item in a joint communique to be signed," said the source.

    This joint statement on the expansion of the European Union and a protocol are expected to be signed in Luxemburg on April 27 as the foreign minister session of the Russia-EU Partnership Council will be underway.

    "The statement should be signed in a package with the protocol; these two cannot be signed separately," specified the source.

    Resuming the issue of Russia's concern over the rights of ethnic Russians, he said: "We would appreciate the following turn of events: on the new ten states being admitted to the European Union, these countries should enforce the same norms and procedures for ethnic minorities as other 15 members of the European Union." "We should prevent the appearance of outcast minorities being discriminated against in these countries," said the source.

    "This is a very acute question, our great worry and should be in one or another way present in a joint communique," he emphasised.

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