Germany to ease visa rules for Russians
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that it would be easier in future for Russians to travel to Germany, after a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, DPA reported.
"I hope we can present something on this next year," Merkel said in the northern German city of Hanover, where the meeting took place. "We are working hard on this."
Russia has long demanded a relaxation of the visa requirements to visit Germany, arguing that they are a barrier to business. Merkel said this was now possible, since the introduction of a database to keep track of potential criminals entering the country.
The visa issue was just one of many topics for the 13th German-Russian government consultations, attended by a delegation of ministers from both countries.
Other points of contention include a Russian ban on German vegetables following an E-coli outbreak earlier this year, and Berlin's demand for a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Syrian government oppression, which Moscow is resisting.
Ahead of the two-hour government talks, the leaders attended the closing session of the Petersburg Dialogue, a regular meeting between civil society representatives from both countries, which began Sunday.
Medvedev advocated greater media independence in Russia, as he addressed delegates.
"It is better if mass media can exist independently," the president said, adding that state subsidies increased the risk that media organizations, especially provincial ones, became the "voice of a person or an organization."
"That is not particularly good," Medvedev added. He spoke in favour of setting up a public broadcaster, and said he welcomed proposals, but expressed doubts that over remaining truly independent.
The meeting has been overshadowed by a row in Germany over a prize which was to be awarded to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, honouring his contribution to German-Russian relations.
The little-known Quadriga prize was withdrawn at the weekend, after critics complained that it ignored the premier's poor human rights record.
The leaders told civil society representatives that it was important to address differences.
"It is better to argue than remain silent," Medvedev said, adding that it must be possible to openly and honestly speak about anything "that doesn't quite seem right."
Merkel also urged members of the German-Russian youth parliament, meeting at the same time, not to become too attached to their governments.
"The more independent you are, the happier we will be to approach you," the chancellor said.
Later in the day, a series of business deals are due to be signed between the two countries.
Germany and Russia have been holding annual government consultations since 1998. Berlin only holds such consultations with seven other countries, including France and Israel, as well as India and China who both came on board this year.