The head of the information and press department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Yakovenko, told journalists upon his arrival in Minsk that relations with the European Union figure prominently in the foreign policy and trade and economic relations between Russia and Belarus.
Mr. Yakovenko said, "the importance of these relations will increase after ten new members enter the European Union on May 1, and for Belarus this will also mean that it will directly border on the EU." He noted that the European Union is Russia's principal trade-and-economic partner. According to his data, in 2002 Russia's trade with the EU amounted to 77.8 billion euros, or 36% of Russia's total foreign trade.
Mr. Yakovenko said, "the positive dynamics of the development of our relations with the EU was preserved in 2003, and after the new countries join the European Union the total goods turnover with the EU will exceed 50%." He noted, "Russia's concerns which we expressed to the European Commission in connection with the EU's enlargement - an increase in tariffs, restrictions on import, anti-dumping measures, introduction of quotas, and others - largely coincide with the questions that also worry Belarussian commodity producers and exporters."