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Germany, Poland call for new EU strategy on Russia

11 November 2011, 22:46 CET
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(BERLIN) - The foreign ministers of Germany and Poland have sent a joint letter to EU foreign affairs supremo Catherine Ashton calling for a revamped European strategy toward Russia, a media report said Friday.

The letter, written by Guido Westerwelle and Radoslaw Sikorski and made available to Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, said the European Union needed to put relations with Russia on a new footing.

"Although the 'office trade' between President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is not encouraging, we must stay the course to intensify ties with Russia and overcome political and economic lethargy," they wrote, according to the report to be published Saturday.

They said the EU must pursue the goal of Russia finding "an appropriate place in a democratic Europe of freedom and prosperity".

And they called for the bloc to continue to help Russia modernise its economy and political system, in return for which the EU should expect Russia to behave as a "reliable partner on Europe's political and economic stage".

Differences of opinion should not stand in the way of cooperation in key areas such as international relations or energy, they added.

Russia supplies about 25 percent of the EU's oil and gas supply.

This week Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel inaugurated a major pipeline pumping Russian gas directly to Western Europe via the Baltic Sea and aimed at reducing dependence on Ukraine and other transit nations where pricing disputes have occasionally disrupted delivery.

But Poland and the Baltic states have long charged that the project, which bypasses their territory, will leave them on their own when bargaining with Russia for their own gas supplies.

Eurozone nations, mired in a debt crisis, have also sought financial support from emerging powers such as Russia for their bailout fund.

Critics warn that the deepening economic reliance on Russia mutes EU criticism of rights abuses and democratic deficiencies.

Putin, who already served as president between 2000 and 2008, announced plans in September to reclaim his old job in March presidential polls, with Medvedev agreeing to bow out after just one term in office and become premier.

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