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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Russian press picks over EU meeting
Solana, Prodi, Putin and Aznar
Hand shakes and smiles, but problems still remain
The failure of Wednesday's Russia-EU summit in Moscow to agree future transit arrangements to and from Russia's Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad attracts considerable comment from the Russian press.

Many highlight President Vladimir Putin's tough restatement of Russia's demand - resisted by the EU - for visa-free transit between Kaliningrad and Russia proper after the bordering countries of Poland and Lithuania join the EU.

"We cannot allow the right of Russians

Russians, and above all Kaliningraders, were doubtless expecting nothing less from our president

Rossiyskaya Gazeta
to travel freely to see their relatives in other parts of Russia to depend on the decisions of individual foreign states," Rossiyskaya Gazeta quotes Putin as saying.

The government newspaper says that the president's warning that the Kaliningrad question would determine "our further relations with the European Union as a whole" was "more than tough".

"But Russians, and above all Kaliningraders, were doubtless expecting nothing less from our president."

No open arms for Kaliningrad

But the leading daily Izvestiya questions the wisdom of Mr Putin's hard line.

It says the president has "driven Russian negotiators into a corner."

"It seems they can't now retreat from the transit idea, which the Europeans categorically oppose."

The mass-circulation Komsomolskaya Pravda

The Kaliningrad Region is scarcely awaited with open arms in Europe

Komsomolskaya Pravda
tries to view Kaliningrad through European eyes.

"The cross-border trade in foreign cars, cigarettes and petrol yields quite good profits," it notes. "But all this 'grey' shuttle commerce clearly smacks of semi-criminal activity."

"With such baggage, the Kaliningrad Region is scarcely awaited with open arms in Europe."

A commentator in Izvestiya believes that the EU is standing firm on the transit issue because its policy is flawed and immigration is "out of control".

"Human nature is such that, having lost the main battle, people defend positions... with redoubled heroism", he writes.

The commentator says that this stems from a refusal to admit that creating a "Fortress Schengen" was doomed to failure from the beginning.

Prodi: "get rid of past"

None of the negative press will have surprised European Commission President Romano Prodi, who seems to have anticipated it in an interview with the popular Moskovskiy Komsomolets.

"You are too fatalistic, too pessimistic," he tells Russians. "The past still casts a shadow over you. Get rid of it."

"You do not believe that the world can change, that Russia can change - for the better."

Market economy status

A more positive outcome of the Russia-EU talks

This decision will undoubtedly increase significantly our country's chances of joining the World Trade Organization

Nezavisimaya Gazeta
from Moscow's point of view was a pledge to grant Russia the status of a market economy.

"This decision will undoubtedly increase significantly our country's chances of joining the World Trade Organization in the near future," says the heavyweight broadsheet Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The business daily Vedomosti is excited by the announcement, made in Moscow by Mr Prodi.

"Our enterprises can demand the revision of 14 anti-dumping restrictions in Europe which cost Russia 240m dollars each year," it writes.

EU has its limits

But the leading daily Izvestiya is sceptical.

"For a start, he did not clarify when this would happen", it points out.

It says Russian diplomats do not believe this

The more active the top-level diplomatic dialogue between Moscow and the EU, the more clearly one can discern the limits to which Europe is prepared to go

Izvestiya
would lead to the automatic lifting of anti-dumping procedures against Russia, noting that this "is why we need such status in the first place."

The paper reaches a gloomy conclusion about Russian-EU relations in general:

"The more active the top-level diplomatic dialogue between Moscow and the EU, the more clearly one can discern the limits to which Europe is prepared to go today (and evidently tomorrow, too) when it comes to rapprochement and integration with the enormous country lying to its east."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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