Friday, May 18, 2001

MOSCOW — European Union leaders yesterday urged Russia to start accepting euros instead of dollars for its exports, promising a boom in investments and trade — but their summit was shadowed by EU criticism of Russias war in Chechnya.
Russia now is paid in dollars for its oil and gas exports to Europe, and the EU wants to switch to euros instead. The two sides signed a joint communique agreeing to discuss the issue in detail.
Russia hoped that yesterdays talks would help cement its place in Europe, reflecting Moscows apparent desire to offset a chill in relations with the United States, strained over U.S. plans for a missile defense system, spy scandals and Russian arms sales to Iran.
Romano Prodi, chairman of the European Commission, strongly pushed for the use of the euro, saying it would help bolster trade, attract investment and boost Russias hard-currency reserves.
“It is a clear sign of commitment to closer relations between the EU and Russia,” Mr. Prodi said at a Kremlin press conference with President Vladimir Putin, Javier Solana, EU foreign policy and security commissioner, and Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson, whose country holds the rotating EU chairmanship.
Mr. Putin avoided the euro issue at a news conference but hailed Mr. Prodis proposal of a common European economic space, which would involve reduced tariffs and more unified trade regulations in the region.
Mr. Prodi and others also mentioned progress on a proposed charter that would encourage EU investments in Russias energy sector, but said it needed more work. They gave no details.
Mr. Putin and the EU leaders also discussed EU assistance for the destruction of Russias chemical and nuclear weapons arsenals, environmental programs and joint action against money laundering and organized crime.
“Our meeting was constructive, rich in substance and extremely fruitful,” Mr. Putin said, adding that the relations with the EU were a priority for Russia.
“The significant role that the EU is playing in the European and world policy is objectively pushing us toward closer cooperation,” Mr. Putin said at the start of talks in the Kremlins ornate Catherine Hall.
Despite the friendly atmosphere at the summit, the EU leaders prodded Mr. Putin on Chechnya. Mr. Persson urged Russia to investigate accusations of atrocities against civilians contained in the latest report by the Human Rights Watch. “Thats the way to regain confidence by the population,” he said.
Mr. Putin acknowledged that civilians had suffered in the 20-month-old war, but insisted the campaign was needed to crush the “religious extremists” who he said wanted to carve a separatist Islamic state from the Black Sea to the Caspian.
He compared the Chechen rebels to Albanian separatists in and around Kosovo, and tried to turn the tables on the EU, saying that failure to disarm the Albanians would lead to them spreading crime and violence throughout Europe. Russia strongly opposed the 1999 NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia over Serbian violence against Kosovar Albanians.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide