10 Jun 2009

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier: Russia, NATO should set up a joint body to promote security

German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says attempts to glorify Nazis must be resisted. But he has doubts that "a definite point of view can be imposed at order."

German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says attempts to glorify Nazis must be resisted. But he has doubts that "a definite point of view can be imposed at order."

"History must not be re-written. It must be given a through analysis. I am well aware how painful the memories of World War II remain to this day. And I am saying in absolutely clear terms: We must resolutely resist revanchist borrowings from the Nazi ideology, whenever they emerge," Steinmeier said in an interview with Interfax ahead of his arrival in Moscow on Tuesday.

"As to the rest, I recommend that history be handled with great care. I don‘t think decrees can impose a definite point of view. It is a lot more important, in my opinion, to go for a direct dialogue and ease the pain of differing memories, which alienate the sides," he said in remarks about a bill proposing liability for the denial of the outcome of World War II and for rehabilitation of National Socialism, submitted to the State Duma.

Steinmeier also said that Polish, Russian and German historians met in Warsaw at the foreign ministers‘ initiative and discussed the start of World War II together with experts from Baltic and others states. "The result was open and very differentiated debates. Perhaps it was a little step, but it was made definitely in the right direction," Steinmeier said.

Russia and NATO should set up an efficient body to cooperate in the security area, Steinmeier also said.

"There will only be common European security if we cooperate. Therefore, I have always been in favor of the idea that we should gather again within the NATO-Russia Council framework as soon as possible," he said.

The NATO-Russia Council should see debates from confronting points of view, Steinmeier went on to say. "However, the goal should be the establishment of an efficient body on cooperation in the security area," he said.

Steinmeier praised the plans to hold a NATO-Russia Council ministerial meeting in June.

Commenting on the current level of relations between Moscow and the alliance, Steinmeier said, "There are no doubts that we are carrying the burden of hard times and new mistrust on our shoulders, and there are fundamental differences on the Georgia issue. But we cannot resolve a single issue if we keep silent."

"As a matter of fact, NATO and Russia have common interests on many issues, be it combat against terrorism or piracy, the stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan, or the prevention of proliferation of nuclear weapons," he said.

Steinmeier refrained from answering whether he believes that Georgia and Ukraine are much further from joining NATO now than two or three years ago. "I believe it is not very efficient to manipulate with timeframes in this issue, either regarding the future or the past. It is a fact that both Georgia and Ukraine should do quite an amount of work on the path of integration with the Euro-Atlantic institutions," he said.

Steinmeier pointed out that the NATO members unanimously decided to continue intensive cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine at earlier summits. "But we also resolved that it is not yet the right time for certain phases in this convergence process, as, for instance, for the so-called Membership Action Plan. A lot has yet to be done here," he said.

Steinmeier also said that, the European Union was not trying to establish its area of influence by launching the Eastern Partnership program.

"First, Eastern Partnership is an important project. Second, it is not aimed against anyone. Third, the matter is not about any areas of influence," Steinmeier said in an interview with Interfax in the run up to his visit to Moscow starting Tuesday.

"On the contrary, it is about cooperation and convergence. Involvement of third parties is strongly welcomed wh ere it looks natural. This concerns Russia as well," he said.

"The purpose of all this is stability and wellbeing of our neighbors, which are also your neighbors. In this respect, I see that it would be in Russia‘s best interests to implement this project together," Steinmeier said.

Steinmeier is positive about the current state of German-Russian relations, including in the trade and investment sectors, but acknowledges that individual issues remain open, including the restitution of cultural valuables.

"Russia remains a very important economic partner for us. In 2008 bilateral trade hit the 68 billion euro mark, and 4,600 German companies remain active in Russia and continue their businesses despite the crisis. It is a good sign," Steinmeier said.

"Relations are good between Germany and Russia. We strongly cooperate on many of the complicated international issues, such as Iran‘s nuclear problem," he said.

"But this does not mean there are no open issues in bilateral relations. The issue of cultural valuables remains on the agenda, of course, even though progress has been achieved. Naturally enough, following the crises over gas shipments we must work jointly to build stable and reliable relations between Russia and the European Union in the energy sector. And, of course, serious disagreements remain between us on the problem of Georgia," he said.

Commenting on the opinion of experts who argue that some of the NATO allies are trying in various ways to restrain Germany and that Germany wants to secure the leading role in Europe, Steinmeier said," We are not seeking any kind of ‘domineering‘, and none of our partners have been trying to bridle us. All this is old mentality. But one thing is clear: Our voice has a weight. We are the European Union‘s largest member-state, and we are enjoying the role of a pioneer in such matters of the future as climate protection and thrifty handling of energy," he said.

"Generally speaking, I think we have an extremely responsible attitude to our role for everyone‘s benefit. I have the impression that our partners see this from a similar angle," the German foreign minister said.