Steinmeier to Discuss EU-Russia Tensions on Baltic Tour | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 09.07.2007
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Germany

Steinmeier to Discuss EU-Russia Tensions on Baltic Tour

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will visit the three Baltic republics this week for talks on the European Union's tensions with Russia and ties to Ukraine, his ministry said Monday.

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The riots over the relocation of the Soviet war memorial in Tallinn was just one flashpoint

Steinmeier will embark Wednesday on a four-day tour of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that will also focus on Germany's economic and cultural ties with each country, his deputy spokesman Jens Plötner said.

"One of the issues addressed will certainly be relations between the EU and Russia," he told a regular government news conference.

"You are aware that a few difficult situations developed in the last six months. These were difficulties which in our opinion have been tempered recently by a willingness on both sides for dialog."

Steinmeier, who will be traveling with a delegation from German cultural institutions, will meet government leaders, presidents and foreign ministers in each of the three countries, which are EU and NATO members.

Plötner said ties with each of the three countries had deepened during Germany's six-month presidency of the European Union, which ended June 30. Berlin moved to advance ties with the bloc's eastern neighbors such as Ukraine during the German presidency in cooperation with the Baltic states.

Red Army memorial row

Blumen werden niedergelegt am Denkmal in Tallinn Estland

The removal of the memorial sparked controversy

Relations between Russia and the Baltic republics have been strained for the last 16 years since the countries gained independence as the Soviet Union fell apart.

A bitter dispute over the removal of a Red Army memorial in April plunged relations between Estonia and Russia to their lowest level since 1991.

Moscow blasted the move as a "blasphemous" affront to the Soviet dead, and Tallinn has accused the Kremlin of being behind cyber-attacks in May that forced the closure of government Web sites and disrupted top businesses to take revenge over the moving of the war memorial.

Plötner said Steinmeier had spoken with both sides during the crisis to help cool tempers.

Steinmeier mediates in Estonia-Russia dispute

Estland Tallinn Unruhen um sowjetisches Kriegerdenkmal weiten sich aus

Ethnic Russians in Tallinn protested violently

In May, it was reported that Steinmeier had practiced some behind-the-scenes realpolitik to sooth Russian-Estonian tensions over the removal of the monument in Tallinn.

According to a report in the daily Financial Times Deutschland, Steinmeier suggested the Estonian ambassador to Russia go on vacation in an effort to calm the situation. Steinmeier called his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to suggest not only that Estonian ambassador Marina Kaljurand take a holiday, but also that Moscow drop the dispute for the time being, the paper reported.

After speaking with Moscow, Steinmeier reportedly called Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Peat and got him to agree to the deal, the Financial Times reported. Ambassador Kaljurand left Moscow on Thursday for a two-week vacation and pro-Kremlin youth activists blockading the Estonian embassy in Moscow ended their protests the same day.

Steinmeier will wrap up his trip Saturday by opening a Thomas Mann festival in Nida on Lithuania's Curonian Spit where the late German Nobel laureate for literature had a summer home before World War II.

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