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    PROBLEMS OF EU EXPANSION MAY BE SOLVED ON MARCH 26

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    MOSCOW, March 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- The trade-economic problems of EU expansion may be solved during a meeting between Russian Economic Development Minister German Gref and EU Commissar for trade Pascal Lami in Brussels on March 26, an informed source reported on Friday.

    "It is highly probable that the trade-economic problems of the EU expansion may be closed in Brussels next week," said the source.

    A group of Russian experts who, together with their colleagues, will prepare the draft of a Gref-Lami statement will leave for Brussels next week, he said. "The coordination of positions is under way through correspondence," said the source. In his words, there remain two or three unresolved issues.

    The problem of the Kaliningrad region (Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave in the Baltics) is causing the most serious concern of the Russian side.

    "At present, we state that from May 1 (the date of the EU expansion after which Kaliningrad will find itself inside the EU) the customs regime for cargo haulage between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia, far from worsening, may even simplify," he said. In his words, the financial burden on Russian carriers will lessen. At present, companies have to pay considerable amounts, including the veterinary and insurance duties. However, the sides are yet to elaborate "a broad agreement on transit," noted the source.

    In his words, an agreement has been reached on the provision of access to the markets of the ten East- European and Baltic states that are joining the EU for the Russian goods against which anti-dumping and protectionist measures are applied in the EU. Such agreements exist on steel and nuclear materials.

    "The sides only need to finalize the technical aspect of these issues," said the source.

    Russian steelmakers annually supply to the markets of the state that are joining the EU over 150,000 tons of steel. The sale of nuclear materials to these countries annually brings Russia $34-40 million.

    Initially, Russia's potential damage from EU expansion was estimated at $150 million per year.

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