Vladimir Putin had an official meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in his Sochi residence (in Russia’s south) yesterday. It was a meeting to hand over Russia’s G8 chairmanship to Germany, as Putin said.
Angela Merkel managed to earn the reputation of a respectable and wise politician over a very short period of time. However, she constantly has to deal with the legacy of her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder. When journalists asked Putin at a press conference if there was a difference for him between the previous and the incumbent German chancellor, the president said that the German society knew it much better. “Yes, we do have friendly relations with former Chancellor Schroeder. As for business feelings, I can only recollect one example. When Russia offered to make one single payment to clear the debt of the former USSR, Angela Merkel [who was in the German opposition back then] supported the suggestion, whereas ruling Chancellor Schroeder objected to it. The German government issued securities for Russia’s debt. That decision was less effective as opposed to Russia's suggestion,” Putin said.
At present moment, Russia is greatly interested in Germany’s stance on Russia's current policies in the fuel industry. In addition, the Kremlin needs to know more about perspectives of cooperation within the scope of the European Union. Germany acts as Russia’s partner on a series of large projects that may raise concerns with other European countries – the Blue Stream undersea gas pipeline built via the territory of Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) is one of them.
Both Russian and German observers said prior to Merkel’s visit to Russia that the German Chancellor would express her serious disappointment to Putin in connection with the recent fuel scandal when gas supplies to Europe were cut because of Russia’s problems with Belarus.
Making a speech at a press conference yesterday, Angela Merkel stated that Germany as the chairing state of the EU understands and accepts Russia’s aspiration to start practicing market relations with all partners. Europe in its turn is interested in stable fuel supplies. Merkel said that partnership agreements between Russia and the EU would have to have new paragraphs clarifying all details in the energy industry to avoid possible mishaps.
Putin said that Russia was actively working to expand possibilities for oil and gas transport to decrease Russia’s dependence on transit countries. Poland, one of the transit states, prefers to put a spoke in the wheel when it comes to Russia's fuel talks with the EU. On the one hand, Poland is not satisfied with the Blue Stream project. On the other hand, Polish politicians use their veto right as a level of influence in the argument about meat shipments to Russia.
However, it is much more important for Angela Merkel to reach an agreement during the talks between Russia and the European Union during Germany’s chairmanship in the EU. “The EU has no problems with Poland. There are certain commercial questions between the EU and Russia, it goes about shipments of meat here, but they are still left unsolved. We are currently working on those issues,” Angela Merkel said.
Yesterday’s meeting between Putin and Merkel showed that Russia and Germany were allies in the new economic agreement. However, it does not mean that the two countries have no other discrepancies. Merkel and Putin differ in their estimations as far as elections in Serbia are concerned. Putin believes that prerequisites for Kosovo’s separation arise from bombings conducted by NATO several years ago. “We still think that it was a terrible mistake. Bombings in the center of Europe on the threshold of the 21st century – can it be considered normal? Nowadays we can witness the results of that mistake. “If we ignore the principle of territorial integrity of a country and say that the international community wants to do nothing to restore Serbia’s integrity, other nations also have a right to say that they will do the same. Aren’t we aware of separatism in European countries?” Putin said.
Merkel responded that Serbia was holding democratic elections, which was obviously a positive factor. The German Chancellor believes that the situation in Bosnia, Macedonia and Croatia is improving.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov