Annual Russian-German forum kicks off in Ekaterinburg
A large number of German politicians and business chiefs led by Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Russia to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev to discuss European security, energy issues and civil society.
Following an informal breakfast between Medvedev and Merkel, the two leaders continued discussing political and cultural cooperation between Russia and Germany at the “Petersburg Dialogue” – a forum, which has been held for the last ten years.
During his speech at the forum, which this year is being held in the city of Ekaterinburg, President Medvedev brought up the subject of business cooperation.
“I hope that we continue doing what we are doing now,” Medvedev said. “Today we talked about modernizing our economy, involving businesses. This is another useful platform.”
Visa-free travel between Russia and the EU also emerged as a subject of talks.
“This is something that our business colleagues talked about, civil societies in our countries talk about this,” Medvedev said. “This should help with youth exchange programs and with our communication in general.” Medvedev noted, however, that the issue of visa-free travel was a matter of negotiations not just between Russia and Germany but the EU as a whole.In turn, Angela Merkel highlighted the need to continue promoting the development of civil society and human rights. She mentioned the murder of Natalia Estemirova, the human rights activist and journalist killed in July 2009 in the Republic of Chechnya, saying that “those who undercut human rights and free speech should be properly prosecuted by the state.”
“We are happy that the President has promised to carry on the investigation until those who carried out the murder are caught, and that he supports the development of human rights,” Merkel added.
Iran appeared to be another subject central to the concerns of both countries at the moment. Medvedev emphasized the urgency of the issue, citing Tehran’s decision to continue moving towards the construction of nuclear weapons.
“Iran is our active and proven trade partner,” Medvedev noted. “But it doesn’t mean that we are indifferent towards the way the Islamic republic is developing its nuclear facilities. We are also concerned about some military components of its atomic program. Iran should find the courage to start fully cooperating with the international community.”
Medvedev announced that following mutual discussions, next year will be dedicated to Russian-German cooperation in science and technology. The idea could “help resolve the problems that [Russia] is now facing,” he said.
During a press conference that followed the discussion forum, President Medvedev expressed his appreciation for Siemens’ decision to do business in Russia’s Skolkovo project.
“We hope that, as part of the big project we plan to launch in Skolkovo, German businesses will be closely involved,” he said.
Business talks are expected to continue throughout Thursday’s meetings, with a number of multi-million dollar investment deals due to be signed between Moscow and Berlin.
Russia is the first stop on Angela Merkel's foreign tour, which will also include visits to China and Kazakhstan.
Fyodr Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the 'Russia in Global Affairs' website, highlighted the fact that Medvedev and Merkel have been meeting on a monthly basis – something that reflects a strong working relationship between the two countries.
“The most important thing about Russian-German relations is that we don’t need breakthroughs,” said Lukyanov. “Because every meeting is usually assessed according to the breakthroughs achieved or not. [But] in Russian-German relations it is so intense, so close that we [just need to] discuss business.”
Russia will hope its relationship with Germany will pave the way for an improvement of ties with the EU as a whole, Cornelius Ochmann, an Eastern Europe expert at the Bertelsmann Foundation in Berlin believes.