The impression exists that a kind of Chinese Wall has been built around Europe, pointed out Greek Prime Minister and European Council President Kostas Simitis responding to a question by a reporter on the statements made earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader had spoken of a Schengen Wall and had complained about the way the talks had progressed concerning the abolition of the visa requirement and the restriction of movement of the Russian citizens.
Mr. Simitis underscored that the free-movement issue is linked with the issue of security and that problems like drug-trafficking and human trafficking will have to first be solved. However, he agreed that there is a need for the free movement of people.
European Commission President Romano Prodi stated, in a joint press conference with Mr. Simitis and Mr. Putin, that efforts will be launched immediately to reach specific solutions.
Mr. Putin congratulated Mr. Prodi and Mr. Simitis for the excellent cooperation, stressing that the support displayed by Mr. Simitis contributed to the improvement of the EU-Russian relations.
In the joint press conference, within the framework of the Euro-Russian Summit Meeting in St. Petersburg held in the presence of over 40 leaders, the EU and Russia agreed on new routes for economic cooperation and dialogue and also, on the support of efforts for world peace and security.
Greek Prime Minister and European Council President Kostas Simitis referred to the issue of Chechnya in his introductory statement during the EU-Russia Summit Meeting in St. Petersburg.
Mr. Simitis extended his condolences to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the families of the victims of the recent terrorist attacks and expressed the hope that those attacks will not undermine the recently launched process aimed at reconciliation and normality in the region.
He said that Russia is encouraged to continue the systematic efforts for a political settlement to the issue. The recently held referendum and amnesty constitute steps toward this direction, said Mr. Simitis.
Mr. Simitis added that the EU will continue to back the efforts of the Russian political leadership for the implementation of a more effective policy in Chechnya aimed at the restoration of peace, the respect of human rights and the economic and social reconstruction of the region.
U.S. President George Bush and other leaders of the Group of Eight were at St. Petersburg – in a warm-up for 2006, when Russia for the first time will serve as host for the annual summit – before they leave for Evian, France.
Bush and the other leaders insisted that the G-8 still will be able to reach consensus on global issues despite the deep divisions in the group exposed by the Iraq war, which saw France, Russia, Germany and Canada refuse to join Britain, Japan and Italy in supporting the U.S.-led war.
Bush’s relations grew especially bitter with French President Jacques Chirac, who actively led the opposition to the Iraq war, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who won reelection with what the White House viewed as an anti-American as well as anti-war campaign.
Schroeder, who hadn’t spoken to Bush since a brief exchange last November, said reporters should not overanalyze the body language.
“I think it’s unfair, given the agenda here, to watch how long the handshake will be,” said Schroeder. The two leaders met Saturday at a banquet for world leaders in St. Petersburg, where Bush took the initiative to offer his hand and a exchange a few words with the German leader.