|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Medvedev Launches Franco-Russian Year in Paris
March 3 (EIRNS)Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is on a three-day visit to France, to inaugurate the Franco-Russian Year, during which some 400 special events will be organized in both countries. During a joint press conference March 1, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, "I am happy to receive President Medvedev for the first time at the Elysée. I receive him as a friend. France considers Russia as a strategic partner. Russia is a friend of France. I had the opportunity many times to work with President Medvedev, and I must say that I trust him. Together we had to solve difficult, painful crises, and we did it. It is therefore a great friend of France who is coming here."
Medvedev and Sarkozy consulted closely during the Summer 2008 crisis, when the Georgian regime of Michael Saakashvili attacked Tskhinvali, capital of the South Osseta district, and Russian peacekeeping forces stationed there.
In an article published in Le Figaro Feb. 27, Jacques Sapir, France's leading Russian expert, welcomed the Paris-Moscow rapprochement, noting that the Russian leaders want to make of their country a "great modern nation," and that several initiatives have been adopted which "all open important perspectives for French industry if we decide to cooperate in that program," especially in the energy programs. "The times when the WestEurope and the United Stateshad the monopoly over modern technology, are well over. Today the globalization of those techniques has made of South Korea, Taiwan, and even China, very strong competition. It is logical that in order to build its energy-efficient program, Russia should turn to Europe, and to France in particular. Our results speak in our favor. But that does not constitute an obligation. It is thus important to seize the opportunity presented to us."
Three important agreements will be signed during Medvedev's visit. Sarkozy stated at their joint press conference, that France has entered into "exclusive negotiations" with Russia, to sell four Mistral helicopter carriers, the first of which will be built at the St. Nazaire shipyards, badly hit by the successive crises in shipbuilding. "It is in the interest of Europe that we not fall back into that very difficult period which was the Cold War." Also, Gaz de France (GDF) signed its entry into the North Stream Gazprom pipeline project, and the French industrial group Alstom announced that it will be taking a 25% stake in the Russian group Transmashholding (TMH), both producers of railways. That process will take six months.
EU Might Finance South Stream
March 3 (EIRNS)After attempting to boycott the South Stream pipeline of Russia's Gazprom, which will take Russian natural gas under the Black Sea to the Balkans, Italy, and Austria, the European Union has now announced that it might finance the project. "The more surprising support for the Russian gas giant came from the European Commission," reports today's Le Figaro. "The new European Energy Commissioner Günter Oettinger declared from Bulgaria, that Brussels could financially support Gazprom's South Stream gas pipeline." Oettinger repeated that Nabucco, another southern gas pipeline promoted by the European Union against the Russian South Stream, remains a priority.