President Vladimir Putin of Russia has raised the problem of superfluous red tape in relations between Russia and the European Union, French leader Jacques Chirac said at a Paris news conference he held jointly with his Russian counterpart Tuesday. Mr Chirac said he "had taken on pen" President Putin's criticism, and would as early as tomorrow phone the Spanish premier, incumbent EU chairman, and set forth the problem. He said it may be resolved whilst Spain is holding rotating EU chairmanship, particularly at Russian and EU cabinet consultations. The current bilateral commodity turnover makes up $3.5 billion, which is not the level that could satisfy the two countries, Vladimir Putin said in his turn. The Russian president then cited Russia's trade turnover with Poland, the country he will be visiting on January 16-17, which amounts to $6 billion, and Russo-German trade turnover which exceeds $20 billion.
Presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, who was accredited for the press conference by Vladimir Putin from Dozhd (Rain) television channel, asked Putin about competition at the coming election
On December 14, President Putin holds his annual Q&A session with Russian and foreign journalists. This conference is considered to be the beginning of his presidential campaign