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  Путь : Главная / / Quentin Peel: Merkel to tackle Putin over crackdown 

Quentin Peel: Merkel to tackle Putin over crackdown

Quentin Peel: Merkel to tackle Putin over crackdown 29 ноября 2012, 10:18 автор: Пил Квентин

Angela Merkel will spell out growing German concerns about the clampdown on civil society in Russia when she meets Vladimir Putin on Friday, signalling a sharp cooling of the traditionally close German-Russian partnership.

The German chancellor, who is flying to Moscow for an inter-governmental summit, will be armed with a sweeping resolution passed by the Bundestag expressing alarm at recent political developments in Russia since the return of Mr Putin to the Kremlin.

Although the parliamentary motion is not binding on the chancellor, it singles out a range of recent Russian laws and administrative acts that “criminalise” criticism, restrict normal democratic activity and threaten drastic penalties for Russian organisations dealing with foreigners.

The motion was passed last week with the support of all the political parties in Ms Merkel’s centre-right coalition plus the opposition Greens. The centre-left Social Democratic party abstained.

A senior German official said in Berlin on Thursday that although Ms Merkel would not embrace the whole resolution, she would raise with the Russian president many of the 17 points it set out.

The move follows a growing public dispute between the two governments over the role of Andreas Schockenhoff, foreign affairs spokesman for Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union in the Bundestag and official government representative responsible for relations with Russian civil society.

Mr Schockenhoff was denounced in Moscow last month after he attacked Mr Putin’s “intimidation” of regime critics. The Russian foreign ministry accused him of slander and announced that he was no longer acceptable as a German government intermediary.

Mr Schockenhoff, who is attending the Moscow talks as a co-moderator of the “Petersburg dialogue” involving up to 200 Russian and German civilians and government officials, is unrepentant.

There had been “a series of legislative measures . . . which all have in common that they intimidate any critical contribution from civil society”, he told the Financial Times. “They do not encourage people to engage.”

After being refused entry to the Russian Duma for an appointment with a Russian parliamentarian on Wednesday, Mr Schockenhoff said there was “an atmosphere of mistrust, of intimidation”, in Moscow. “Everything which comes from abroad is seen as activity by agents against Russian interests. It is a very strange atmosphere.”

Steffen Seibert, Ms Merkel’s official spokesman, said the German government would decide on its own representatives. “Not every objective criticism is slander,” he said.

Mr Schockenhoff said: “I have been encouraged to continue because the chancellor’s office sees my engagement for civil society as very important. A critical public debate is a precondition of an open society.”

Ms Merkel will be accompanied on Friday by a large delegation of German business leaders, as well as eight government ministers and top officials, underlining the importance of the commercial relationship between the two countries.

She is expected publicly to stress the importance and strategic nature of their partnership. In private, however, she is likely to be much more critical about the clampdown on civil society than in her previous encounters with Mr Putin.

The Russian president is certain to answer back with a vigorous defence of his actions, his spokesman said on Thursday.

“We are well aware of the heightened anti-Russian rhetoric in Germany,” said Dmitri Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman. “We are aware of the demands Ms Merkel faces from Bundestag deputies and others to raise various human rights and democracy issues with Mr Putin.

“As always, President Putin will explain in detail whatever remains unclear and will ask his own questions.”

He blamed the upsurge in German criticism on politicians seeking to raise their profile for the forthcoming German election campaign. With two-way trade totalling $87bn between the two countries, there was an “air bag” to ensure the solid foundation of their relationship, he added.

Mr Schockenhoff agreed that “big business is going on, because it is in our mutual interest”. But he warned that “for small and medium-sized countries, business is becoming more difficult./

“Corruption is systemic. It goes to the top of the ministries. I don’t see any real political initiative against corruption. The lack of real political competition is the main cause of it.”

He called on Berlin to support the emergence of “a new middle class of highly educated young people” who were unable to have an impact on Russian political life. “I think we should encourage them. It is very important for them to have international contacts,” he said.

Source: Financial Times

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