"We have to fight for mutual relations" | ZEIT ONLINE

Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier (CDU) called on the Petersburg Dialogue in Moscow to keep the exchange between Germany and Russia in spite of current tensions. "We have to fight for the mutual relations," said the minister at the beginning of the German-Russian discussion forum. "We are neighbors and we have a common history." In this continuity, both countries would have to make sure they talked, Altmaier said. "Only when you talk, you can solve problems." The current time is "not easy".
            Since the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia in 2014 and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, relations with the West have become tense. The EU has responded to the annexation with economic sanctions. "If we all want our relationships to be developed at all levels, then we need to solve those questions," said Altmaier. Then both countries would have their backs to deal with the "real problems".
            The head of the Petersburg Dialogue, ex-chancellor head Ronald Pofalla, accused the Russian government of stepping back in its policy. He also referred to the annexation of the Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine. "We are also concerned about the progressive restrictions on civil society engagement in Russia," said Pofalla. Before the talks, he had rejected criticism that dialogue serves Russia as a means of maintaining its own credibility. "I'm not a fig leaf," Pofalla said.
            The Russian chairman of the dialogue, Viktor Zubkov, acknowledged that the political situation had "come to a head". The discussion forum would therefore set an example to preserve and promote the dialogue of civil society. He hopes that relations between the two countries will improve and that Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend one of the next forums. Both politicians read greetings.
            Pofalla defends construction of Nord Stream 2 Pofalla also stressed the importance of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea. The construction was important for Germany to succeed in a quick coal exit. "I think this project from the perspective of security of supply for right," said the longtime CDU politician. Without a broad gas supply a "necessary change of the energy supply in the sense of a CO2 reduction" could not be created, said Pofalla.
            Subkov said that work on the pipeline was proceeding as planned. It is a big and important project. Only Denmark has not yet approved the construction. The project is controversial because it could increase the EU's dependence on Russian gas. The US is considering sanctions on Nord Stream 2 to hit Russia.
                About 250 German and Russian representatives from business, science, culture and other social sectors will take part in the two-day dialogue in Petersburg. The informal discussion forum was founded in 2001 as a supplement to the German-Russian intergovernmental consultations. Regular meetings between governments were suspended after the annexation of Crimea.

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