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Press review: NATO to hash over military ‘Schengen zone’ and frame Macedonia’s membership

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, July 11


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: NATO summit to discuss allied armies' free transit across Europe

US President Donald Trump will travel to meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin right after the summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and deliver a message of cooperation, US Representative to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said at a briefing.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the envoy supports plans to create a "military Schengen" zone that would allow allied armies to freely cross European borders.

According to Hutchison, the meeting between Putin and Trump will be a good place to discuss not only the relationship between Russia and the United States, but also the interaction between Moscow and NATO. She clarified that Trump would deliver a message of cooperation from the North Atlantic alliance, which wants Russia to change its behavior toward it. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Trump and Putin would have to discuss a dialogue between the West and Russia, which would be productive in certain areas, for example, regarding Syria.

Responding to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Hutchison commented on the initiative of the Netherlands Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld, who believes that the block needs a "military Schengen" zone, allowing allied military units to move freely around Europe. According to Hutchison, this initiative came from the need to enhance military mobility, so that NATO could immediately move troops in the event of an unexpected attack. She noted that the NATO summit would adopt a declaration on forming a "security umbrella" in Europe, which, if necessary, can be used very quickly.

However, according to the newspaper, on the sidelines of the summit, the topic of a hypothetical confrontation with Russia might take backseat due to Trump's latest statements about NATO. Earlier the White House noted that President Trump would attend the summit with the desire to protect the American people. What's more, given that the US has been footing the bulk of NATO's bill, he would demand that the alliance stop considering America as the world's piggy bank. Meanwhile, according to Hutchison, in 2017 NATO's defense spending reached its peak since the Cold War.



Kommersant: NATO to vote on Macedonian referendum

The decision by NATO's 29 members to invite Macedonia to join the "North Atlantic family" will be one of the main results of the alliance's summit that kicks off on Tuesday. The long-awaited step for Skopje became possible after the country resolved the dispute with Greece about its name - it will be called Northern Macedonia. However, a senior NATO official told Kommersant that the results of the Macedonian referendum to rename the country are essential in order to complete the process. At the same time, he did not rule out that Moscow would try to influence public sentiment. A source in the Russian Foreign Ministry did not comment on these allegations, but told the newspaper that such notions are no longer surprising.

A senior NATO official told Kommersant, that after the summit the allies "will quickly" draw up an expansion plan, which will describe what the country should do to join the alliance. "There are technical and legal requirements for all countries, and there are specific reforms that a state should implement. These requirements will be discussed in the coming months. After that, we will wait for Macedonia's consent to it, then the protocol of accession will be signed by all NATO countries," the source told Kommersant.

The source also told the newspaper, "There is not a single sign that someone might block any decision on Macedonia." At the same time, the source does not doubt the referendum’s results even if the source "was not surprised by Russia's activity within Macedonia", aimed at disrupting the process of the country joining NATO.

"Such accusations are no longer surprising, since Russia is now always suspected of something," a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry told the newspaper commenting on the allegations.

Presumably, the Macedonian parliament will set the date of the vote for Monday, July 16. In this case, the referendum will be held in late September - early October. According to Kommersant, it is likely to be combined with early parliamentary elections, so that Macedonians could not only determine the name of the state, but also support those who are in favor of an agreement with Greece, opening up Euro-Atlantic prospects to Macedonia.


Izvestia: UN to hire Russian citizens for volunteer program for first time

For the first time, the United Nations with the support of the Russian Foreign Ministry, is launching a program to hire Russian citizens, the UN told Izvestia. Nineteen vacancies were opened for citizens of Russia under the UN Volunteers program (UNV). Deputy Executive Coordinator of UNV Toily Kurbanov told Izvestia that the main goal of the initiative is to give Russians the opportunity to get international volunteer experience.

The idea of creating a special program for Russian citizens who would like to get a job in the UN has emerged primarily due to the announcement of 2018 as the Year of Volunteers in Russia. In order to support the growing volunteer movement in the country, the UN and the Russian government agreed to open vacancies designed for Russian people.

According to Kurbanov, the global organization is happy that the partnership between the UN Volunteers program and the Government of Russia is flourishing within the Year of Volunteers. The main goal of this initiative is to give Russians the opportunity to obtain international volunteer experience and expand their professional skills, and to carry out activities within the framework of UN projects and programs around the world, he told Izvestia.

The UNV program for recruiting, deploying and managing volunteers providing UN agencies with support for peace and development initiatives was established in 1970. In 2017, more than 6,500 people from various countries worked under the UNV program in 131 states. However, the recruitment of Russian citizens to participate in UN projects and structures around the world is a first.

The UNV told Izvestia that according to the polls, 75% of the citizens from other countries working under this program noted that being employed as a UN Volunteer helped them in their future careers.


Izvestia: Netherlands, France blocking Bulgaria from joining Schengen zone

The Netherlands and France have been hampering the accession of Bulgaria along with Romania into the Schengen zone, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zakharieva told Izvestia. She noted that adding the country into the Schengen zone would have significantly helped foreigners who came to the country, but this is not a problem for Bulgarian citizens since they can travel within the EU visa-free.

Since 2011, the European Commission (EC) and the European Parliament (EP) have published many resolutions and reports calling on EU member to accept Bulgaria and Romania into the Schengen zone, but this has not brought any visible results, Zakharieva told Izvestia.

According to her, two states - the Netherlands and France - still raise concerns about the admission of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen area. After the outbreak of the migration crisis, their apprehension can be considered reasonable, she noted. The diplomat told Izvestia that she does not see any real arguments, because by 2011, the country had already fulfilled all the technical requirements, and had proved its ability to protect EU borders.

The Bulgarian top diplomat added that Sofia is still negotiating with the two countries in order to talk them into accepting the republic to the Schengen zone. In contrast, she noted that the lack of admission is not a problem for Bulgarians.

Any removal of visa barriers is good, Vice President of the Russian Union of Travel Industry Yuri Barzykin told Izvestia.

"Bulgaria is a very popular destination for Russian tourists - some have real estate in the country, children's recreation is very well developed here," he pointed out. "Of course, a universal visa would expand opportunities, permitting travel to other EU countries. Nevertheless, it is unwarranted to talk about a sharp jump in the tourist inflow if Bulgaria joins the Schengen zone," he told the newspaper.


Vedomosti: Russian company plans to send tourists to space for $200,000

Russian space travel company KosmoKurs signed an agreement with Scientific and Production Association of Automatics (part of the Roscosmos state corporation) to develop an on-board control-telemetry system for commercial civil-purpose rocket launchers, according to Roscosmos’ press service. The management system for KosmoKurs is expected to be manufactured within five years, Vedomosti wrote. The company plans to create a complex for sending tourists into space on a suborbital trajectory.

KosmoKurs plans to organize excursions to the altitude of Gagarin's orbit (180-220 km) along an open trajectory. In order to do this, the company intends to develop a reusable launch vehicle and a reusable spacecraft for seven seats (six tourists plus an instructor). The flight will last 15-20 minutes, including time in zero gravity - 5-6 minutes, and will cost $200,000-250,000, according to the company’s website. KosmoKurs expects to hold the first flight in 2025. The rocket will take the ship into orbit and return to Earth, and then the ship will return by itself with the help of engines and parachutes.

KosmoKurs was established in 2014, 30% owned by the company's CEO Pavel Pushkin and 70% - by Alexander Tukatsinsky, who has been on the boards of directors of the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UMMC) and its large asset Kuzbassrazrezugol for many years. UMMC acts as KosmoKurs investor, more precisely, the co-owner of UMMC Iskander Makhmudov, top manager of one of Roscosmos companies told Vedomosti.


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