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Medvedev Speaks on Effects of Fall of Berlin Wall

MOSCOW. Nov 7 (Interfax) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, the day East Germans were allowed to freely cross into West Berlin, represented "not only changes that were affecting all the Germans but that they were changes that were affecting Europe, and ultimately our own country as well."

Speaking to German magazine Der Spiegel ahead of a planned visit to Berlin, Medvedev said he could not remember where he was on November 9, 1989, but that he could well remember "a very acute sense that our life is changing instantly."

"I was grown-up enough - I was doing a postgraduate course at St. Petersburg University - to realize that changes of that kind were not only changes that were affecting all the Germans but that they were changes
that were affecting Europe, and ultimately our own country as well," he said.

The Berlin Wall was a symbol of the division of Europe, a division between two civilizations and between two sets of values, Medvedev argued.

"And its fall was seen as part of a course for the unification of Europe. It's obvious that all this has emotional components of some kind to it as well. In any case, many associate that time with the well-known tune 'Wind of Change,' which was in effect written in that period and which became a hymn to those times," he said.

"A lot of time has passed after that. Some of the hopes that, say, I had at that time, and probably the population of our country had, have come true, and some haven't. The main point is that dividing lines have been overcome, and ultimately Europe has become unified. On the other hand, much of what has to do with the life of Europe and with relations between the Russian Federation and European countries, could have followed a somewhat different scenario, in my view," the president said.

He elaborated on what he had described as hopes that have not come true.

"We believed that, as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a somewhat different place would be set for Russia in Europe. We hoped that the disappearance of the Warsaw Treaty would entail a different degree of Russia's integration with pan-European space," he said.

"But what have we got as a result? NATO is still, after all, a bloc that has its missiles targeted at Russian territory, it's a military bloc," Medvedev said.

He also mentioned a proposal for a European security treaty.

"It is actually its purpose to create a floor to enable everyone to discuss burning problems - both states that are members of NATO and European states that are not. Otherwise, states that are not members of NATO still won't feel absolutely comfortable," he said.

"I don't mean that the idea of such a treaty is an anti-NATO (initiative). We just need to create a universal mechanism where we would maintain contact, where we would talk about the more complex situations, where we would talk about how we can overcome our intra-European disagreements on various issues. And last year's conflict with Georgia has shown that there still are no guarantees of our security in Europe. It was a European conflict. I personally have no doubt that we must think of strengthening European security. It's our common cause," Medvedev said.

Complaints about alleged restrictions on democracy and human rights in Russia were one more subject raised in the interview.

"We have the same values that you in the West have," Medvedev said. "I can't see any great difference as regards freedom and human rights, primarily if one draws comparisons with new members of the EU: they are by no means any better off than us in terms of political culture and economic development, but they are small and they are constantly saying how many threats they are having to handle."

"They only differ from Russia in the sense that we are big, very big, and we have nuclear weapons. It's simply wrong to say, there's a united Europe here where democracy is a fact and over there there's gloomy, uneducated Russia, which can't yet be let into Europe," Medvedev said.

In speaking about the shared economic interests of Russia and Europe and about joint projects, he said "the economic agenda is already the same" and that "our interpenetration has gone far head."

"So what is it that divides us? I hope practically nothing. I hope there's almost nothing that divides us. I hope we will be able to continue to strengthen our relations with our European neighbors. I hope the level of mutual understanding on most points will improve," Medvedev said.

"I hope that many of the problems that today exist in the European continent - and one can't help seeing them - will be solved with our active co-participation," he said.

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