The FT website just published the full text of an interview with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Here are some extracts: Russia’s attitude towards non-governmental organisations gives ground for concern, says Merkel
How should Europe’s policy towards Russia develop, given that we are not even capable of starting negotiations as planned on a new partnership agreement? The existing partnership agreement runs out in the autumn. I am very optimistic that we will solve the problem of Polish meat exports to Russia. Then we can start the negotiations, although I am not saying they will be very easy. How dangerous is Europe’s reliance on Russian energy imports? We had a very frank discussion with President Putin at the EU summit in Lahti. We need reliable energy supplies from Russia and Russia needs us as reliable consumers. I think it’s perfectly legitimate for Russia to seek greater access to western European markets. Having said that, we must have reciprocity. If obstacles are being erected to protect Russian companies from European investors, nobody should resent it if the Europeans take reciprocal action. Do you understand the concerns many people have about democracy, freedom of the press and the situation of human rights organisations in Russia? We have seen some incidents that we ought to be concerned about. This is not necessarily a criticism of the government. I have told the Russian president many times that contrary opinions are a normal part of society. One just has to live with it. Not everything the press writes about German politicians is flattering. Yet in the end, it is much preferable to have a genuinely free press. Likewise, Russia’s attitude towards non-governmental organisations gives ground for concern. The reports we are receiving tell us that the NGO legislation, while not problematic in itself, creates in its application a lot of red tape and insecurity for NGOs. We always mention such observations (to the Russians) and so does the foreign minister. And yet did you not criticise the human rights section of the foreign ministry’s strategy paper as being too soft? I did not. The paper’s theme was about rapprochement through integration. That thinking is correct. Co-operation projects, for instance in the energy sector, create partnerships. That’s why we call our relationship with Russia a strategic partnership. As far as this strategic partnership is concerned, there are no differences of opinion within the German government.