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    Russia's EU envoy says visa-free travel stymied by politics

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    The introduction of visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union is being hampered by a "considerable political component" in the talks, Russia's EU envoy said on Wednesday.

    The introduction of visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union is being hampered by a "considerable political component" in the talks, Russia's EU envoy said on Wednesday.

    In an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta government daily, Vladimir Chizhov recalled that while serving as European Commission president in 1999-2004, Romano Prodi said visas would be scrapped in 2008.

    "It is 2009 now... Obviously, this has something to do with various positions of EU member countries," Chizhov said.

    He said it had taken the republics of former Yugoslavia several months to complete all bureaucratic procedures to have visas scrapped with the EU from January 1, 2010.

    "This means there is a considerable political component to the problem... But we will continue working actively in this direction," he told the paper.

    Chizhov rejected the idea that Russia's relations with the European Union needed a reset. "They need additional loading," he said. "We should further improve our strategic partnership."

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is currently in Stockholm for an EU-Russia summit to focus on energy security and a new cooperation pact.

    On the eve of the summit, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told RIA Novosti there was no need for a reset in EU-Russian relations.

    "I see no need for a reset. Of course there are issues on which we disagree and where we would like Russia to work differently, but Russia is a key partner in the international arena and we have deep, multi-dimensional and far-reaching aspects to relations with your country," he said in an interview.

    Solana added that the visa issue could not be swiftly resolved as it was tied up in the ongoing discussion on a new cooperation agreement between Russia and the EU.

    The previous agreement has been temporarily kept in force since it expired two years ago, and a seventh round of negotiations on a fresh deal is due in December.

    MOSCOW, November 18 (RIA Novosti)

     

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