Interview with Aleksander Rahr

Alexander Rahr from the German Council on Foreign Policy joined RT ahead of the Russia-Germany summit.  He believes the root of difficulties between the sides lies in the overall relationship between Russia and the EU.

Russia Today: What are the stumbling blocks in the relations between Germany and Russia?

Alexander Rahr: I think in the broader spectrum we have a very good relationship. Strategic partnership is continuing and a lot of economic projects are being carried out. However, we have two main problems in our relationship. I think they are not so much related to the German-Russian relations but to the overall European-Russian relations. First, it is the human rights factor – in the European Union there’s still a strong belief that Russia is somehow moving away from democracy building its own European civilisation, which some people may argue is somehow against the kind of values built up in Europe after the Second World War The second stumbling block is energy. There’s also some kind of belief in the EU that Russia might use its new powers of control of the resources necessary for Europe in order to dictate some polices to the European Union. Many people in Germany think that this is nonsense but still it is a stumbling block and we are discussing it in a very open way. 

RT:  In terms of energy co-operation, Germany has developed very special energy relations with Russia. At the same time, the EU is seeking to formulate a common approach. Is there any controversy between Germany and the EU here?

A.R.: We in Germany have to take into account the interests and the opinions of the new members inside the European Union and NATO. Even in such questions as energy it’s difficult because indeed we’ve had a fantastic and very well developed strategic energy alliance with Russia over the past years. This is now being put in question by certain new EU members, former and present transit countries, which have their own – maybe individual – conflicts with Russia over energy. In a way Europe is becoming hostile. On the other hand, we don’t have enough room for manoeuvre: if Germany wants to commit itself to building up the European Union as a political entity and not only as an economic one, it has to accept and tolerate the existing rules. They say that we have to take into account all opinions, both negative and positive, to try and find a common strategy towards Russia. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to do it, it would have been easier to develop a policy before the enlargement of the European Union. However, we live now in this world and we cannot change it dramatically but I’m sure Russia will also find its way to the new members of the EU, to its former Warsaw Pact satellite countries, as well as institute a strategic partnership with them, which will be good for Europe.

RT: The EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement expires this year and there’s still no progress made. What can Germany do in order to get it going?

A.R.: I wouldn’t dramatise the situation. It looks difficult now to talk about the continuation of strategic partnership as its major document, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement signed in 1994, will not be valid any more. On the other hand, my personal opinion is that things are changing very dramatically all over Europe and we cannot live by the rules established between Europe and Russia, Europe and China or Europe and the other world in the 90s, when Europe was in a completely different position, a more powerful one and could demand more from its strategic partners than now. The rules are exactly the opposite currently. Countries like Russia which understand that they have resources needed for Europe can play out them politically, saying “We are not going to continue to be pressed in the kind of framework which was designed by Europeans as it’s not in our interests, we want to do something else”. In my opinion, what will happen is that we will sit down and develop a new energy charter, new rules of the game, new agreements which would be different from the documents signed in the 1990s.