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    PUTIN, SCHROEDER TO DISCUSS COOPERATION WITH EU AND EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION

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    MOSCOW, APRIL 2, 2004 (RIA NOVOSTI) - President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation and Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are to negotiate in Moscow today, discussing cooperation with the European Union, as well as the approval of the European constitution.

    Talking to RIA Novosti, a Kremlin source noted that the sides intended to focus on expanded Russia-EU relations, which are a traditional aspect of the Moscow-Berlin dialogue.

    Germany became the first EU country to sign an agreement stipulating more lenient mutual-trip regulations with Russia; this document entered into force January 1, 2004, said the source.

    Germany remains Russia's most important partner in the context of expanded Russia-EU relations, Mr. Putin said earlier.

    We would find it extremely interesting to consolidate those specific positions being voiced by France and Germany in connection with the EU's expansion and in the context of building up relations with Russia, Mr. Putin told reporters on Saturday. Not only should we consolidate such relations, but we should also see to it that they encompass the entire EU to the greatest possible extent, Mr. Putin added.

    In Mr. Putin's words, he plans to discuss the approval of the European constitution during his talks with Mr. Schroeder.

    We must know what's going on in Europe, also comprehending such processes, Putin said. Russia would like the European entity to have some powerful center for tackling problems of bilateral relations on a sound basis, stressed the president.

    We are unable to deal with anyone in many cases, Mr. Putin noted. The EU president changes every six months. We keep charting various plans; however, new experts tend to appear; new priorities emerge, brushing old ones aside. It's hard to work, the head of state went on to say. Consequently, a more stable European situation would benefit Russia to an increasingly greater extent, Mr. Putin stressed.

    Moreover, specific European processes should be comprehended in the context of subsequent relations on post-Soviet territory. We must heed all difficulties of the current European-integration process, applying all achievements whenever possible, the president said in conclusion.

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