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USA trip

Merkel and Obama in agreement over Ukraine

Germany and the USA intend to do all they can to support preparations for the elections in Ukraine. The two nations are to engage in a cyber dialogue on data security, underscored Chancellor Merkel and President Obama after their meeting at the White House.

Chancellor Angela Merkel chats with President Barack Obama. President Barack Obama received Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

The meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Barack Obama was longer than originally planned. Afterwards, the Chancellor reported that developments in Ukraine had been a special priority, in view of the current situation.

Free elections crucially important

Russia’s action are "threatening to undermine the post-war order in Europe," said Angela Merkel. It is becoming clear just how important the transatlantic partnership is, even today. "It is good that we have so far taken every step together," summed up the Chancellor. "Today in our talks we also announced our intention to continue to do so."

Angela Merkel underscored the importance of the Ukraine’s presidential elections on 25 May. The OSCE must play a "key part" in ensuring that the elections are correctly held. The 25 May will be a vitally important date.

"What is at stake is no more and no less than the ability of the Ukrainian people to decide for themselves which path they want to take in future," said the Chancellor. "With the OSCE we will do all we can to persuade Russia, which is also a member of the OSCE, to take the necessary steps to ensure that 25 May marks progress in stabilising Ukraine."

Additional sanctions on the agenda

If this is not possible, additional sanctions will be unavoidable, warned the Chancellor. It is now "very much in Russia’s hands", to defuse the situation, said Angela Merkel. She hopes, "that Russia will in future act more in line with its responsibility. This will mean that we see action. The OSCE hostages have still not been released, among them four Germans. That is one really important step that we still have to see."

President Barack Obama too underlined the fact that the OSCE team still detained by insurgents must be released without delay. Otherwise, Russia is pushing up the price it will have to pay for its actions. The European Union (EU) and the USA are absolutely determined to impose additional sanctions if necessary.

Angela Merkel pointed out that short-term sectoral measures can be adopted at any time, including the next meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs on 12 May. In the medium and long term the aim must be to diversify energy sources in Europe and extend the pipeline network. An energy union is now being discussed.

The two heads of government made it clear that they are still working hard to resolve the crisis at diplomatic level. "The goal is not to punish Russia; the goal is to give them an incentive to choose the better course, and that is to resolve these issues diplomatically," said President Barack Obama. Sanctions are not an end in themselves, said the Chancellor, but she made it quite clear that, "We are serious".

Cyber dialogue to build trust

The National Security Agency (NSA) was another important issue on the agenda. Differences of opinion still exist, reported Angela Merkel "with the respect to the balance between the need for surveillance to protect citizens from danger on the one side and the need to protect individual liberties and rights on the other. This will also entail more, further-reaching discussions between our two countries in order to overcome these differences of opinion."

The Chancellor welcomed the willingness of the USA to engage in talks. The planned German-American cyber dialogue is an important step forward.

The Safe Harbor data privacy principles and a framework agreement are two lines of negotiation, that should be pursued as the first step. The offer for the parliaments of the two countries to step up discussion and exchange is also on the table. The cyber dialogue should not just be seen as a return to business as usual. "We will be working at it, and it will be on the agenda for some time to come," stated the Chancellor.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership important

The Chancellor considers the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the USA and the EU to be "very, very important" – also in view of the crisis in Ukraine. Persisting difficulties should be ironed out swiftly, so that the agreement can be finalised if at all possible by the end of 2015. Both sides are "in full agreement", said Angela Merkel, that this is "absolutely necessary" now.

The TTIP is to improve opportunities for growth and create jobs. The German government has been decisive in countering the fears of consumer protection groups. There will be no agreement that could negatively impact on EU consumer standards.

The TTIP was also on the agenda for the rest of the Chancellor’s stay in Washington. In a speech to the US Chamber of Commerce the Chancellor stressed, "The European Union and the USA already have a dense network of free trade agreements with third countries and are currently engaged in negotiations on several more agreements. Now we must and will manage to reach agreement with one another putting in place a transatlantic free trade zone."

For Angela Merkel, the TTIP would be "a clear signal of our resolve, to dismantle all trade barriers, and it would also provide important impetus for the development of the world economy as a whole."

Global political hot spots

During lunch Angela Merkel and Barack Obama discussed other topical issues of global politics, including negotiations with Iran over the country’s nuclear programme and the situation in Syria, also with a view to the presidential elections to be held in June.

The two heads of government also shared their most recent impressions from Asia. Barack Obama returned from an eight-day trip to Asia on Tuesday, while the Chancellor has met recently with the Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Financial assistance for Ukraine

At the Chancellor’s meeting with Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to wind up her visit to Washington, the focus was on the situation in Ukraine. The planned IMF financial assistance is to help the government in Kyiv to pay their gas bills to Russia.

May 02, 2014