German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on Russia to strengthen the rule of law, while pressing for the EU to quickly seal a partnership deal with the Kremlin.
Russia and Germany have shared interests, such as energy security, Steinmeier said
Steinmeier called for a new partnership with Russia at the start of his four-day visit to the country. Germany could help Russia to modernize once the country had become economically stabile, he said in a speech on Tuesday, May 13, in Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains.
Russia remains an "indispensable partner, also in shaping the political world of tomorrow," Steinmeier said, referring to comments newly elected President Dmitry Medvedev has made regarding the need for reforms to improve the rule of law, modernizing state bureaucracy and freedoms for civil society and entrepreneurs.
He said that Russia and the EU needed each other when it came to energy security, weapons control, the fight against terrorism and climate protection.
Steinmeier also pressed for speedy negotiations on a new EU partnership treaty with Russia, since the final barriers to internal bloc agreement had been overcome. He said the path had been cleared for the new pact, which was meant to cover trade and political partnership.
Steinmeier (r.) meets with His Russian counterpart Tuesday
"I hope it will not only be a new, modern treaty between Russia and the EU but that it will, above all, be negotiated within a clear timeframe, so that it can become the basis of our common policy," he said.
Lithuania said Sunday it was abandoning its objection to the pact between the European Union and Russia. But the EU newcomer and former Soviet republic said its approval was contingent on Russia resuming oil deliveries as well as solutions to the frozen conflicts in Moldova and Georgia.
The previous 10-year pact between the EU and Russia expired last year.
Germany's top diplomat was unusually upfront about democracy in Russia and called on the Kremlin to provide reliable conditions for investors.
Medvedev (r.) got Putin's job last week
"The modernization of Russia can only succeed if domestic and foreign capital face a reliable legal framework," he said, adding that positive economic development required trust, reliable processes and an independent judiciary.
"These are all issues we are already working on with a view on Russia's future [World Trade Organization] membership," he said.
Steinmeier, who is also deputy chancellor, is scheduled to hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, later Tuesday. He is the first western minister to visit Russia since Medvedev was inaugurated last week. He's due to meet with the new president on Wednesday and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday. His visit ends in St. Petersburg on Friday.