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    RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER FEARS EU EXPANSION MAY BRING ABOUT LEGAL VACUUM IN RUSSIA'S RELATIONS WITH NEW EU MEMBERS

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    MINSK, February 2, 2004 (RIA Novosti's special correspondent) - Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has expressed concern about the possibility of a legal vacuum in Russia-European Union relations after the EU enlarges in May 2004 to include new members.

    Since May 1, when the EU admits the new members, bilateral agreements and treaties between Russia, Belarus and the new EU member-countries will be terminated as the latter will be subject to European law, Mr Ivanov said when asked by RIA Novosti about negative consequences of the EU expansion.

    "A legal vacuum can emerge in a whole range of directions," said the foreign minister.

    Prompt measures should be taken to deter a negative effect on trade and business contacts with some of the countries, he said. The consequences may be more serious or less serious, he added.

    Mr Ivanov said Russia was in talks /over the matter/ with the Commission of European Communities and the new EU member-countries.

    "We hope a constructive approach to the problem will help work out measures that will bring possible negative consequences to a minimum," said Mr Ivanov.

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