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City news, 15.06.2006 14:25

Halonen in St. Petersburg, invites Putin to EU summit in Lahti

economic_forum The presidents of Russia and Finland are in agreement that relations between the two countries are in excellent condition. Russian President Vladimir Putin described the ties as "excellent".

"We hope that the whole European Union would take the good cooperation between Finland and Russia as an example", Putin said at the International St. Petersburg Economic Forum, where he met Finnish President Tarja Halonen on Tuesday. Halonen thanked Putin for his "kind words".

Both presidents said that they were looking forward to the Finnish turn at the EU Presidency, which begins in July.

Halonen said that it is high time to strengthen the energy dialogue between the EU and Russia, and that it would take place during the Finnish EU Presidency. Halonen invited Putin to an unofficial EU summit in Lahti, at which energy is the main theme.

Tuesday’s economic forum gathered together Russian political leaders, top business figures, and foreign guests. President Halonen was one of the speakers at the opening.

Energy has been a hot topic in Russia all year, since a dispute emerged between Russia and Ukraine over the price of natural gas.

In her speech Halonen did not mention the price of gas or nuclear energy, which Russia has been emphasising more and more recently. On the other hand, she noted that the fight against climate change requires the development of conservation, and the introduction of renewable energy sources.

Halonen and Putin meet at least once a year on the average. At a press conference in St. Petersburg she was asked why she does not meet US President George W. Bush as often.

Halonen said that the reason is geographic: Russia is right next door. She also noted that she has actually met the President of the United States.

"The Americans themselves might be asked how they arrange these fairly rare visits."

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