Saturday

30th Jul 2016

Steinmeier disagrees with German business chiefs on Russia

  • Steinmeier (l) added 'law' to the goal of creating an economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok (Photo: SPD in Niedersachsen)

German politicians are divided into two broad categories: 'Russia understanders' and 'Russia critics'.

The doveish Social-Democrats (SPD), including two former chancellors - Gerhard Schroeder and Helmut Schmidt, who voiced understanding for Putin's annexation of Crimea - are broadly considered to be 'Russia understanders'.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But SPD foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday (9 April) surprised an audience of businessmen, diplomats and politicians from Russia and former Soviet countries in Berlin by disagreeing with speakers from the German business community.

The event called "East Forum Berlin - opportunities for an economic area from Lisbon to Vladivostok" - was sponsored by Italian bank UniCredit, whose boss, Giuseppe Vita, cited Lenin in his opening speech and received scattered applause when he said no economic sanctions should be imposed on Russia.

Eckhard Cortes, former CEO of Metro, the German retailer, now in charge of an association of German firms doing business in eastern Europe, also said the blame for the Ukraine conflict is shared by all parties - Russia, Ukraine and the EU.

Steinmeier disagreed. "There cannot be a parallel economic world doing business as usual with Russia," he said.

"With all self-criticism that we can accept, it was illegal for Russia to redraw borders seven decades after the end of World War II. This not something we can accept and the vote in the UN Security Council proved that Russia alienated many friends," he added.

He said he could understand the business community's desire not to impose economic sanctions on Russia, but said the German government was determined to take that path if Russia continued to stir up trouble in eastern Ukraine.

"The news from eastern Ukraine indicate that the situation is about to escalate, there are massive Russian troops on the border. Risk of open violence is very high," Steinmeier said.

He pointed to the "superhuman task" of stabilising Ukraine's political and economic systems, given the years of corruption and mismanagement.

"There are no economic or political reasons for Russia to want the collapse of Ukraine," he noted.

German efforts are now focusing on the creation of a contact group so that Ukraine and Russia can find a diplomatic solution.

"This is not about Germany being there in the room - it makes no difference who is the third party. The most important thing is to get this contact group, we are not there yet," Steinmeier said.

Meanwhile, Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca noted that he was grateful to the EU commission and Romania for having started work on a multi-million euro interconnector which will allow Romania to export gas to Moldova. Currently, Moldova is 100 percent dependent on Russian gas imports.

In another positive development, Moldovans will be able to travel visa-free to Europe just three weeks' time.

"Few thought this would be possible so quickly, but it is Moldova's reward for implementing all the requirements," Leanca said.

He said Moldova's EU integration "is a modernisation project, not something directed against someone," even though the country has no EU membership perspective at the moment.

The eastern Moldovan region of Transniestria, where Russia still has at least 10,000 soldiers, has submitted a request to be annexed by Russia. But Moscow has not yet replied.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceThe Trans Adriatic Pipeline: An Opportunity or a Scam in the Making for Albania?
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen: I Condemn All Threats to Turkey's Democracy
  3. GoogleHelping Emergency Services Find You When You Need It Most
  4. Counter BalanceWhat's New in the Investment Plan for Europe: Business as Usual or True Innovation ?
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  6. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  7. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  8. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  11. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  12. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children

Latest News

  1. EU encouraged car industry to cheat, French report says
  2. Terrorism and migration top EU public's concern
  3. Spain's Rajoy warns of minority rule
  4. Car lobby complained about emissions tampering by others
  5. Critical IMF report heralds new Greek bailout battle
  6. EU free movement must be curbed, UK says
  7. EU political pressure alone cannot save the rule of law
  8. Merkel: Attacks won't change refugee policy