German Chancellor Merkel's first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has triggered praise from newspapers across Europe, many of which have compared her style favorably with that of her predecessor, Schröder.
Firm and frank is how Merkel showed herself to be in talks with Putin
Most papers in Germany praised Merkel for addressing uncomfortable issues such as Chechnya in talks with Putin -- something Merkel's predecessor Schröder never did. Most have also taken stock of Merkel's visits to both Washington and Moscow, which took place within a span of five days.
The Fra n kfurter Allgemei n e Zeitu n g said Merkel had "emancipated herself" from her predecessor's policies. "Under the East German chancellor, the pendulum of Berlin's foreign policy is swinging back to the center position, from which America is no greater cause for concern than Russia," the paper noted. It added that Merkel had not given up Germany's claim to an independent role in global politics. "This intermediate power in the heart of Europe cannot shirk the responsibility and the influence which it has come to acquire since reunification," the paper said.
The Fi n a n cial Times Deutschla n d said Merkel had used her visits to Washington and Moscow for an "important realignment" but without completely shaking up relations. "Merkel has simply taken out the overriding and damaging emotions from ties: the icy hostility towards the Bush administration and the cozy proximity to Vladimir Putin," the paper wrote. "The German thermostat has been set to the right rational temperatures towards East and West and thus relations with both partners is now more sober and better," it noted, adding that it still remains unclear after Merkel's visits to Washington and Moscow, what the normalization means for practical politics.
Merkel has earned praise for being frank in talks with Putin
The Ha n n oversche Allegemei n e Zeitu n g said it remained to be seen whether Merkel's criticism of "the increasing authoritarian features of the Russian state" would have an effect on Putin. "But Merkel's words have fallen on fertile ground outside the Moscow center," the paper wrote. "It's about a long-term effect: the groups, who don't accept their civil rights being restricted, are strengthened. And Berlin has a duty towards them."
Other European newspapers commented on the personal chemistry between Merkel and Putin, wondering whether she would keep up the cozy ties cultivated by Schröder.
French daily Le Mo n de wrote that Merkel is unlikely to get on as well with Putin as her predecessor Schröder. "With time the two men developed such a great friendship that it provoked criticism in Germany," it said. That closeness "annoyed Germany's eastern neighbors which retained a very bad memory of the alliances between Berlin and Moscow," it added. But, since she came to power, "Merkel has been saying that she is working towards readjusting the right balance," the paper said.
Britain's The Guardia n wrote that it was clear that Merkel's visit to Moscow was going to be more difficult than her trip to Washington. "Her brief businesslike trip was in striking contrast with the male bonding sessions Mr. Schröder, George Bush and Tony Blair have all held over a few beers with Vladimir Putin. None of them have been as forthright as they should have been on issues as important as human rights, the Chechnya war, media freedoms and the Yukos affair," the paper pointed out. "So it was impressive to see the German Christian Democratic chancellor talking of a "strategic partnership" but still doing publicly what the Social Democratic Schröder (who called Mr. Putin a "flawless democrat") never did privately -- meeting Russian NGOs to register objections to laws restricting their activities. Encouraging democracy, civil society and stability is in the interest of Russia's neighbors," the paper wrote.
In Russia, the Trud daily said that although the "Iron Frau" will not be "the same kind of friend that Gerhard Schröder was to Vladimir Putin," this should have little effect on general relations between Germany and Russia. These relations, the paper argued, "are based on firm economic foundations."
Another Russian paper, Kommersa n t ran an article headlined "Friend Angela: New German Chancellor turns out to be no worse than the old one." The paper wrote: "Mrs. Merkel was doing her best to stress the continuity of Gerhard Schröder's policies. Angela Merkel seems to be running ahead of her own locomotive. She even declared that the partnership between Russia and Germany must be far more intensive than before."