Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his Belgian counterpart Guy Verhofstadt have agreed to sign a joint declaration concerning the intensification of Russia-EU relations in the field of strategic defence. As the department of governmental information reported, Mr. Kasyanov had announced the news at a press conference following the Russia-Belgium intergovernmental talks in Brussels yesterday. He said that 'the declaration would be issued within the framework of European defence strategy' calling the document-to-be-signed 'the cornerstone of further stability in Europe and the rest of the world.' When commenting on the bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector, the Russian Prime Minister stressed that the European Union had no intention of restricting long-term supplies of Russian energy sources into Europe. At the same time he pointed out the need for effective measures to attract further investment in the industry. In Mr. Kasyanov's estimate Russia could easily provide for Europe's gas and oil needs. He also announced that Belgium had apparently decided to upgrade Russia's short-term credit rating from category seven to category four, thus raising Russia's yearly limit to 0 million. Russia's middle-term credit rating had also been upgraded form category seven to category five (yearly limit 0 million). In Kasyanov's opinion, such decisions indicate that 'Belgian entrepreneurs are picking up political signals aimed at encouraging economic cooperation with Russia.' Over the last year the trade turnover between the two countries has reached .7 billion (18% increase). As concerns the intentions of Belgian entrepreneurs to invest in various Russian projects, many of them have already expressed their willingness to participate in the construction of the Sheremetievo-3 airport in Moscow. Others have chosen the fields of telecommunications, transportation or energy. The Russian Prime Minister noted that Belgium would continue supporting Russia in her search for acceptable solutions to the problem of the Kaliningrad Region in the view of Poland's and Lithuania's possible EU memberships. On May 15, 2002, there will be a special ministerial session concerning the future of the Schengen agreement after the EU expansion. In addition, The Rape of Europa, sculptured by a Belgian artist, will be inaugurated in Moscow beginning May. It will be placed on the square next to Kiev train station by September this year when the square is to be renamed into Europe Square. Mikhail Kasyanov also said that the Russian government had decided to return Belgian military archives seized by the Nazi Germany and moved to Russia after WW2 where they have been kept ever since. A Belgian convoy that will transport tons of archive materials back to Brussels might arrive to Moscow in the nearest future.
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