BERLIN/MOSCOW/KIEV (Own report) – Berlin is taking steps to possibly end sanctions against Russia. Today, almost one year after the signing of the Minsk II Agreement – whose full implementation is still considered as a prerequisite for ending the sanctions – the Bavarian Prime Minster, Horst Seehofer is expected to arrive in Moscow for talks on promoting the renewal of German-Russian business relations. Seehofer can build on decades of Bavarian-Russian cooperation. His visit to Moscow is closely coordinated with Germany’s federal government. The EU and NATO are also involved in Berlin’s cooperation efforts. Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel also increased pressure on Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko to finally obtain approval from Kiev’s parliament for the constitutional amendment providing Eastern Ukraine’s special status, as agreed upon in the Minsk II Agreement. Until now, nationalists and fascists have prevented this measure.
At the same time, Berlin is making preparations to end sanctions against Russia, as mainly, German business circles have been demanding for quite some time. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.) Today, Wednesday, Bavaria’s Prime Minister, Horst Seehofer, is expected to arrive in Moscow for talks. As a German government spokesperson confirmed, the visit is explicitly coordinated with Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Above all, Seehofer will be primarily concentrating on Bavarian economic interests, according to reports. At the peak of German exports to Russia in 2012, Bavarian enterprises accounted for more than 12 percent. They now are particularly complaining about the slump in their business with the East. Reportedly, Bavaria’s Prime Minister intends to also include the issue of EU sanctions in his negotiations. Another visit has reportedly been planned in the second half of the year, where Seehofer is expected to be accompanied by German managers, possibly the head of Siemens, Joe Kaeser. Last spring, Siemens was already reporting that company sales to Russia had slumped to nearly half.
During his visit, Seehofer can build on the long-standing special relationship the state of Bavaria has nurtured with Russia. Already back in December 1987, Bavaria’s Prime Minister, at the time, Franz-Josef Strauss visited Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, where they discussed Gorbachev’s reforms. Subsequently, the governments in Moscow and Bavaria initiated a close cooperation – today officially called a “partnership” – which had been exceedingly profitable for Bavaria’s economy, until sanctions were imposed. Last year, in spite of the sanctions, Bavaria and Russia have systematically enhanced their cooperation. This included a “dialog” in the field of municipal politics, promoted by the CSU-affiliated Hanns Seidel Foundation with the organization of a visit to the Russian capital by a group of Bavarian politicians, in mid-October. Several CSU politicians visited the Russian capital in late October, for detailed talks on key issues of foreign and military policy, and in mid-November, Bavarian politicians and business representatives went to Moscow for a “German-Russian Energy Dialog.”
In Synchronization with Brussels
Observers note that the Austrian Minister of the Economy, Reinhold Mitterlehner, landed in Moscow Tuesday for talks, notably to negotiate questions of economic cooperation, according to Austrian media. He was accompanied by influential managers, including the head of the OMV energy company, Rainer Seele. Seele had headed Germany’s Wintershall natural gas company, prior to his transfer to OMV, and is still President of the German-Russian Foreign Chamber of Commerce. Subsequent to the development of cooperation between Wintershall and Gazprom, he is now – successfully – engaged in the development of cooperation between Gazprom and OMV. OMV will take part in the construction of two new strings of the Nord Stream pipeline and have access to Russian natural gas fields. This was possible, because the sanctions are imposed on the oil, but not on the natural gas sector. It is reported that, not only has Mittlerlehners trip been “meticulously planned” for months, but that it has been synchronized already in October, with President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.