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Russia: Prodi Says Moscow, EU Have 'Strategic Partnership'

Moscow, 29 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- European Commission President Romano Prodi said today in Moscow that the European Union and Russia have entered into a strategic partnership. Prodi said Russia has been changing for the better. However, Prodi said the country still is not ready to be considered for EU membership. Prodi spoke as EU and Russian leaders gathered for a Russia-EU summit in the Kremlin. The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar will also attend, while President Vladimir Putin will lead the Russian officials at the meeting. Spain currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Aznar said yesterday the two sides will discuss bilateral cooperation, the global fight against terrorism, EU-Russia energy ties, and the development of the Russian economy. He said the EU is ready to help Russia gain market-economy status and support its bid to join the World Trade Organization.

Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad is also on the agenda. Russia has complained that EU plans to accept Lithuania and Poland as members would mean the residents of Kaliningrad would be cut off from the rest of Russia. Kaliningrad is wedged between Lithuania and Poland.

Russia's Foreign Ministry has accused the EU of not taking the interests of the enclave sufficiently into consideration while preparing to admit new EU members.