The Kaliningrad regional parliament is to ask the Russian government and the EU to help the region resolve the issue of receiving direct EU funding for programmes and organisations that are of key importance to the region. According to the parliament's press office, it was decided on Thursday, March 20 to make this appeal to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Mikhail Fradkov, the Russian government's envoy to the EU, Romano Prodi, the President of the European Commission, Patrick Cox, the Speaker of the European Parliament, and Richard Wright, the head of the EU's delegation in Russia.
The parliamentary deputies decided to resort to this appeal because of the situation concerning EUR 25 million that, according to Romano Prodi, were to be paid into a special EU fund for supporting and developing small and medium-sized business. However, plans have changed, and the funds are now to be reoriented to a special programme for the Kaliningrad Region which will form part of the Tacis programme in 2004-2006. The deputies are concerned by this decision because up to 80% of Tacis funds are spent on research and consultations by Western experts, and only 20% go on direct investment.
Key programmes in the Kaliningrad Region include creating a global information system to simplify customs, border and other forms of control, which are essential for transit through Kaliningrad; developing a network of centres for treating AIDS and tuberculosis and supplying them with modern equipment; creating a system of 'distance treatment' to allow hospitals and clinics to receive consultations from leading Russian and Western experts.
The remarks from the Pope came as "a very strong step towards degradation," "given the rather massive nature of homosexuality" among the Catholic clergy.