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Government consultations

Dialogue with Russia strengthened

Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to see more exchange with Russia. Speaking at the 14th German-Russian government consultations she praised the wide spectrum of cooperation between the two countries, but also expressed her concern about planned Russian legislation.

Merkel und Putin im Gespräch vor Fahnen. Bundeskanzlerin Merkel und Präsident Putin im Gespräch Photo: Bundesregierung/Denzel

Angela Merkel was accompanied to Moscow by eight Cabinet ministers and a German business delegation. At the outset she noted that economic cooperation has come a long way. More than 6,000 German companies are involved in Russia. Economic cooperation with Russia is good. The more calculable the framework for investment, the more German businesses will engage in Russia.

Putting relations on a broader footing

The partnership for modernisation between the two countries also means continuing exchange in the fields of science and research, education and civil society contacts. Germany, she said, is not only willing to put relations with Russia on a broader footing, but is enthusiastic about this prospect.

In economic relations between Germany and Russia, energy plays an important part. Russia is Germany’s single most important energy supplier. The Nord Stream Baltic Sea gas pipeline is a joint project involving Russian, German and other European companies. The pipeline, which came online in November 2011, provided a new route for supplying Russian gas to German markets.

Germany is Russia’s second largest trading partner and buys 40 per cent of its gas and 30 per cent of its oil from Russia.

Following the plenary session at the government consultations, the Chancellor met Russian President Vladimir Putin for a one-to-one meeting. This was followed by a meeting of all German and Russian government representatives.

Concern about draft legislation

Angela Merkel saw the government consultations as a strengthening of the dialogue between Germany and Russia. Although the two have different opinions on some points, it must be realised that the two nations finds themselves in different circumstances, she said.  An intensive exchange should be continued she added, and said she would be flying home with the conviction that it is always good to talk to one another.

During the talks the Chancellor had expressed her concerns about Russian draft legislation that would restrict freedom of organisation and freedom of opinion. In a society an atmosphere must prevail that permits different opinions, she said.

Agreement on training and youth exchange

Representatives of the two countries signed five government agreements, for instance in the field of vocational training and climate-friendly business. Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and his Russian opposite number agreed to ease up visa regulations, so as to foster youth exchange. The long-term goal is to dispense entirely with visas, but progress in this direction will have to be gradual, said Guido Westerwelle.

German and Russian businesses also signed a number of economic agreements, including a contract for the delivery of 695 electric locomotives to Russia.

Agreement between German and Russian civil society

Since 14 November, representatives of the two states from the fields of politics, business, culture and the churches had been involved in a meeting within the framework of the "Petersburg Dialogue". This was initiated in 2001 as a discussion forum. It fosters understanding between civil society in Russia and in Germany. This year’s topic was "Russia and Germany: the information society facing the challenges of the 21st century".

A spirit of friendship and partnership

Chancellor Angela Merkel declared in Moscow that the history of the two nations is intricately interrelated. The two can cooperate well; town twinning arrangements and foundations are particularly important, she added. The links between Russia and Germany cover a very wide spectrum, including the establishment of voluntary fire brigades.

During a panel discussion within the scope of the "Petersburg Dialogue" the Chancellor underscored the spirit of friendship and partnership that prevails between the two countries. "We want Russia to be successful," she said.

Angela Merkel commented on the verdict on the members of the band Pussy Riot. A protest of that sort would also provoke heated discussion in Germany, she said, but a two-year prison sentence would not be handed out in Germany. German-Russian friendship will not be improved if we simply sweep disagreements under the carpet.

The annual government consultations are held alternately in Germany and in Russia. The last consultations were held in July 2011 in Hannover. A strategic partnership links Germany and Russia. The meetings look at disarmament and arms control, and conflict hot spots like Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East. Global challenges like energy security, climate change and the fight against organised crime are also on the agenda.

Nov 16, 2012