Premier’s agenda for visit to Russia

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s official visit tomorrow to the Russian Federation is taking place at an extremely interesting time. There is, of course, the thorn in bilateral relations of the Russian TOR missiles. But apart from elucidation on both sides and, above all, the clarification that what goes on in a Greek parliamentary committee is an internal Greek issue, a good climate appears to be reigning once more in the two countries’ bilateral relations. Issues of common interest and developments on the international scene make Karamanlis’s talks, especially those with Russian President Vladimir Putin, of exceptional significance. Procedures at the United Nations, developments in Ukraine, the question of terrorism and European issues are expected to top the agenda for the meetings in Moscow. In view of the recent EU enlargement and, in particular, the prospect of a beginning to Turkey’s accession talks, the discussion of European matters will be of special interest, as they will follow Putin’s visit to Ankara.   The only shadow over the trip is the last-minute cancellation of the first part of the visit: Karamanlis was to have gone to St Petersburg tomorrow and on to Moscow the following day. But the arrival of Dutch Prime Minister and current EU President Jan Peter Balkenende in Athens tomorrow morning has forced a change in the Greek premier’s schedule. This disappointed some Russians who had welcomed Karamanlis’s decision to visit the Russian president’s hometown. Another factor making Karamanlis’s contacts in Moscow more interesting is that Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and, as of January 1, Greece will become a non-permanent member, which obviously opens up new spheres of cooperation.