PARIS, February 6 (Itar-Tass) - A session of the Russo-French Grand interparliamentary commission opens here on Wednesday. The session will be co-chaired by Sergei Naryshkin, Speaker of the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament, and Claude Bartolone, President of the National Assembly of France.
Paris-Moscow cooperation in the economy, interaction within the framework of the European Union (EU), as well as humanitarian exchanges are the main themes on the session's agenda, Naryshkin said.
A leading member of the French MPs' Group of the Friends of Russia has told Itar-Tass, "We are interested in deepening partnership with the Russian lawmakers. The range of mutual interests is wide enough to include the energy sector, scientific and technological cooperation, educaiton, and culture". Uniting tens of people's deputies from various regions of France, the Group is one of the most widely representative in the National Assembly.
Later in the day Wednesday, Sergei Naryshkin will also meet with French MPs in the format of the Foreign Affairs Commission. On Tuesday, the State Duma Speaker already had a detailed conversations with Jean-Pierre Chevenement, French Foreign Ministry's special representative for the development of relations with Russia. In particular, the sides touched upon the question of facilitating visa formalities between the two countries with a view to abolishing them subsequently.
In a talk with journalists, the State Duma Speaker pointed out that the French colleagues had taken up a "very positive attitude" towards visa arrangements. Russia is grateful to France for the introduction of streamlined arrangements for the issue of visas to the citizens of the RF for short-duration trips, Naryshkin said. "However, we think that the liberalization of the visa formalities has already exhausted its resources: what we already introduced does not meet the present-day requirements any longer from the viewpoint of giving greater scope to human contacts, and to ensuring greater mobility of the citizens of Russia and the EU," he added.
The preparation of the two countries for the centenary of the First World War was one of subjects of discussion during Naryshkin's talks held in the French capital. Russia, true to its allied obligations, had more than once come to the aid of the French side. An Expeditionary Corps had been sent to Europe to assist the allies in 1916. Together with French troops the bulk of the Corps defended Champagne-Ardennes Region. Russian infantrymen near Reims had particularly distinguished themselves by barring the way to German divisions that sought to advance towards Paris.
This past Tuesday, the State Duma Speaker attended a ceremony marking the laying of flowers at the monument to the soldiers of the Russian Expeditionary Corps. The monument is erected in the historical quarter of the French capital on the right-hand bank of the Seine, not far from the Grand Palais and the bridge named after Alexander III, during the reign of whom the Russo-French alliance had been formed.
The Grand Commission was set up in 1995 and has been a permanently functioning joint body of the National Assemby and the State Duma. The principal purposes of the Commission are to facilitate the sharing of legislation drafting experience and promote various forms of cooperation between the parliaments of the two countries. The Commission's sessions are held alternately in Russia and France.