Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Plan Gets Tougher

Germany is to "toughen" a plan on European policy towards Russia that has been drafted by the SPD-controlled Foreign Ministry, the IHT reports (see also RFE/RL). The plan was to have been an important part of Germany's forthcoming EU Presidency and chairmanship of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries, which begin on January 1, and it will still go ahead, but with major modifications, to
reflect the erosion of human rights, the murder of a prominent journalist and the use of energy as a political weapon under President Vladimir Putin, senior government officials said Wednesday... under pressure from Chancellor Angela Merkel and senior members of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union, which are part of her governing coalition, the Foreign Ministry is preparing to include references to human rights and the rule of law. The two issues have caused increasing unease in the West. Both were absent from the Foreign Ministry's original paper.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for two days of talks that will include a meeting with Putin on Thursday, was asked by the chancellery to raise human rights issues, including the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist who was shot outside her Moscow apartment in October.

"The Foreign Ministry knows exactly what our views are about its paper on Russia," said Ruprecht Polenz, a Christian Democrat who is the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Bundestag. "As we prepare to take over the EU presidency, it is absolutely necessary that we make clear to Putin what we think about his policy toward human rights and the rule of law."

Putin promised an investigation into the killing when he met Merkel in Dresden shortly after the shooting, but German officials said they had heard nothing since.

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