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Germany's Gauck talks security in Romania

June 21, 2016

German President Joachim Gauck has discussed tensions in Eastern Europe and Berlin's policies toward Moscow with his Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis. The meeting comes ahead of a NATO summit in Warsaw.

Joachim Gauck meets with Klaus Iohannis in Bucharest (c) picture-alliance/dpa/R. Jensen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Jensen

President Gauck met with Iohannis in Bucharest on Monday, opening a two-day diplomatic visit to the former Warsaw Pact member.

The two presidents discussed the security situation on the Black Sea, Iohannis said, after some NATO members had proposed basing a permanent naval force in the area.

The Black Sea is bordered by Russia and traditionally seen as part of the Russian sphere of influence, but Romania and Turkey have asked the alliance to place a fleet near their shores to offset the allegedly growing Russian presence. Bulgaria, also a NATO member, has opposed the idea.

Another major issue between Russia and Romania is neighboring Moldova, the former Soviet republic with a majority Romanian-speaking population. Moldova is locked in a frozen conflict with Russia over its breakaway region of Transnistria.

Gauck's visit comes ahead of a major NATO summit in Warsaw in July, where the alliance is set to decide whether to boost its forces near Russia's borders.

Under German law, presidents play a mostly symbolic role compared to the chancellor. However, the president remains the nominal head of state and a representative of Germany abroad.

Mingling with Romania's Germans

At a press conference on Monday, Gauck stressed Germany's commitments towards its eastern NATO partners. At the same time, he acknowledged that Berlin's diplomatic position was sometimes "seen in a critical light, because it is trying to open and maintain open doors for a dialogue with Russia."

Gauck also commented on recent remarks by Germany's top diplomat Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who criticized "saber-rattling" and "war cries" directed at Russia.

These statements don't mean Germany is giving up its positions on the Ukraine conflict, Gauck said.

"If the leading politicians are considering ways to create a better climate with Moscow, it does not mean turning our backs on our commitments," he said.

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German, praised Gauck as a "symbol of anti-communist revolution in the GDR," referring to Gauck's experience in resisting the former East German regime.

On Tuesday, Gauck is set to visit the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, a cultural center to Romania's German minority. He is scheduled to leave for Bulgaria on Wednesday.

dj/cmk (AP, dpa)