Monday

17th Jun 2019

Germany and Russia call for new EU security committee

Germany and Russia have called on the EU to create a new foreign minister-level security forum to handle issues such as Transnistria.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made the proposal at a joint press conference following bilateral talks in Meseberg castle, 40km north of the German capital, on Saturday (5 June).

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  • Ms Merkel and Mr Lavrov held 10 hours of talks accompanied by just a few senior aides (Photo: kremlin.ru)

"There is now a committee of ambassadors in Brussels that deals with security issues," Ms Merkel said, referring to EU Council's Political and Security Committee (PSC). "This committee could be further developed, so that there is regular and ongoing contact not only at ambassador level, but between the EU and Russia at the foreign minister level."

She added that Berlin will put forward the idea at the next PSC meeting in Brussels on Tuesday in order to "attack" the creation of "such a mechanism."

Mr Medvedev backed the idea, saying: "We must make a special forum where we can exchange opinions on current issues of international security. We can also prepare advice on various legal issues of co-operation."

Both sides mentioned Transnistria - a strip of land in Moldova which is controlled by pro-Russian rebels and which hosts a Russian military base - as the kind of problem the new body could deal with.

"You could try something like that in concrete cases that we still have to resolve. In our opinion, the situation in Transnistria is a very favorable example," Ms Merkel said.

The Meseberg meeting saw the two leaders and a small "handful" of advisors hold behind-closed-doors talks for 10 hours, according to German press agency DPA.

It comes less than a week after an EU-Russia summit in Rostov-on-Don in which the EU rejected Russian calls for a speedy visa-free travel deal but in which the two sides agreed a brief joint statement on EU help for modernising Russia's economy.

Mr Medvedev pressed the visa issue on Saturday.

"For our citizens, for the citizens of Russia as well as the citizens of the European Union, this is something extraordinarily important. If we go ahead, it will change our lives. It will make us a true strategic partners," he said.

It is unclear if the security committee proposal, which would involve regular meetings between EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, has been consulted with Ms Ashton's office.

"We hope and we think that this could see a positive response in the entire European Union," Ms Merkel said.

Asked by journalists why the proposal was being floated at a bilateral meeting instead of at the EU level, Mr Medvedev noted that Germany and Russia have a "long-term" partnership.

"All ideas have their founding fathers who enforce these ideas and take them forward. In this sense, I believe that I can call on good ideas first bilaterally," he said. "It doesn't mean that we don't back our work with Brussels or want to replace it with co-operation with other states. It's just to have ideas emerge at a personal level."

Ms Merkel said: "This is not a bilateral agreement. But it serves that purpose. There are always situations where one member state moves ahead a bit on a particular topic."

Story updated at 3pm on 8 June. The original article said: "the two sides failed to agree a detailed memorandum on EU help for modernising Russia's economy" at the Rostov summit. An EU contact said it was never the intention to agree a "detailed memorandum" at the event

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