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    MOSCOW, February 24, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The issue of the Russian population's rights in the Baltic countries should be resolved before they join the European Union, together with the EU, said Sergei Mironov, the speaker of the Federation Council (upper house of the Russian parliament).

    "There should be no double standards in this matter," he stressed. Mr. Mironov recalled that there is the European Convention on National Minorities, and it has to be fulfilled.

    Mironov also pointed out that "a legal vacuum" should not be created in relations between Russia and the EU's new member states.

    "This might happen because bilateral agreements signed earlier with those countries will be terminated as the countries join the European Union, whereas the new mechanism of interaction will not be created yet," Mr. Mironov said.

    In his turn, the chairman of the Federation Council international committee, vice speaker of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mikhail Margelov critically assessed the European Union's demand in regard to Russia to re-conclude trade agreements with new EU members.

    "The language of sanctions is not the style that's needed in Russia-EU relations," Margelov told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

    He recalled that the EU now demands that Russia extend the partnership and cooperation agreement onto 10 new countries, eight of them East European, that will become EU members in May.

    In this case, Russian companies might lose up to $300 million annually, said the senator.

    In his opinion, the European Union must take into account that losses of its new members in case the partnership and cooperation agreement is extended "will be at least twice the amount of our losses, and these new member countries will lose the privileged regime in trade with Russia."

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