Berlin Seeks to Build EU Ties With Russia

(Moscowtimes) - The German Foreign Ministry is preparing a new policy toward the east that aims to tighten ties between Russia and Europe but does not address human rights, a theme dear to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Foreign Ministry officials cited President Vladimir Putin as saying he had been informed of the policy and liked it. He will visit Germany on Tuesday for a meeting of the Petersburg Circle, a group established five years ago to promote economic, cultural, social and youth links between Russia and Germany, reports Trend.

The policy is described in an internal paper prepared by the ministry. The subtext is clearly Europe's increasing dependence on Russia to meet its energy needs.

But Merkel won support from the German public last year by promising a more critical approach toward Russia, and her advisers say she prefers an approach to the east that takes into account the interests of Poland and the Baltic states.

"The view of the chancellery is that we have to take care of Poland, Ukraine and the immediate neighborhood," said Jorg Himmelreich, a regional expert in the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

The Foreign Ministry paper advocates the adoption of this policy by the European Union during Germany's six-month presidency of the bloc, which begins Jan. 1.

The gap in the approaches is, at least in part, a reflection of the power-sharing arrangement created after inconclusive elections last September. To create a governing coalition in the parliament, Merkel crafted a deal between her Christian Democratic Party and the rival Social Democratic Party in which they split the posts in the 16-member cabinet and she became chancellor.

The Foreign Ministry's paper, titled "The German EU Presidency: Russia, European Neighborhood Policy and Central Asia," states that "Russia will play a central role in the German EU presidency."

The ministry envisioned this policy would actively engage Russia and the former Soviet states to bring them closer to Europe.

The section on Russia highlights the energy ties with Europe that were strengthened by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, a Social Democrat, from 1998 to 2005.

Schroder developed a friendship with Putin. Upon losing to Merkel last year, Schroder was immediately appointed to head a German-Russian gas consortium dominated by Gazprom.

Some analysts call the Foreign Ministry's outlined policy shortsighted because it does not alter energy relations.

"Germany is becoming increasingly dependent on Russia for its energy," said professor Claudia Kempfert, an energy expert at the German Institute for Economic Research. "This dependence is dangerous, given how Putin is trying to push foreign investors out."

Other experts noted it was uncertain that the policy described in the Foreign Ministry paper would lead to better relations.

"We don't have influence with Russia," said Roland Gotz, a Russian expert at the government-financed German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "We cannot integrate Russia into NATO or the EU, because Russia does not want to be integrated. We have no levers."

German parents whose infant son vanished under mysterious circumstances nearly 22 years ago, just before Putin arrived at his posting as a KGB officer in Dresden, hope Putin can help find their son, Reuters reported Sunday.

The infant, Felix Tschok, disappeared Dec. 28, 1984, after his parents left his stroller outside a department store in Dresden.

His parents, Eberhard and Lenore Tschok, said he might have been kidnapped by the Soviets, and hope to enlist Putin's help Tuesday, when he visits the city where he was a spy until 1990.

The disappearance set off one of the biggest investigations in East German history.

he East German police eventually closed the case, but the Tschoks have persuaded authorities to reopen it. "We just want to know how our child is doing now," Mrs. Tschok said. "We just want to know what happened to him."

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