After the next wave of EU expansion on May 1, 2004, the EU will account for 51% of all Russian trade turnover. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, this was announced yesterday by Alexander Grushko, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry department for cooperation with Europe. In his opinion 'it will mark a serious change for Russia.' At present EU countries only account for 36% of Russian trade turnover. Moreover, Russia imports 22% of all goods produced in Europe and exports 40% of all nationally produced goods to Europe.
Mr Grushko said that EU expansion 'will have both positive and negative effects on Russia. Many issues are rather complicated. For example, Russia will have new problems conveying people and cargo. We have already experienced this kind of problem with the Kaliningrad Region,' said the Foreign Ministry spokesman. He stressed that Russia sees its integration with the EU 'as a strategic partnership based on the need for creating common economic zones and establishing other common interests.' In this respect, Mr Grushko said, Russia thinks 'it is essential to try to remove some of the barriers and create a visa-free zone at some point in the future.'
EU expansion could also cause problems for Russia's bilateral relations with the new EU member-states. 'We have a lot of bilateral agreements with these countries and not all of them will remain legally valid after these countries enter the EU,' Mr Grushko said. He added that there are about one hundred such agreements and expressed the hope that this issue would be resolved by May 2004.