Merkel, Medvedev tout 'strategic' economic cooperation

15th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Speaking after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel at his palm-lined Black Sea residence, President Dmitry Medvedev said the time was right despite the world economic crisis for Russia to boost investment in German industry.

Sochi -- Russia and Germany vowed Friday to forge ahead with a "strategic" economic partnership, eyeing investments that could save German jobs and strengthen Russia's position in Europe's largest economy.

Speaking after talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel at his palm-lined Black Sea residence, President Dmitry Medvedev said the time was right despite the world economic crisis for Russia to boost investment in German industry.

"Why are such investments required even now, in a period when all of us are in a difficult economic state?" Medvedev asked.

"Precisely to enable us to pull out of this difficult nosedive."

It was a telling comment from the Russian leader who warned on Monday that Russia's economy risked running into a "dead end" unless it quickly changed tack and implemented basic reforms.

Medvedev insisted that, rather than draining needed finance from the struggling Russian economy, "quality" investment in Germany was needed to help diversify a Russian economy still too dependent on oil and gas exports.

He said a possible tie-up with Opel, the struggling European unit of US auto giant General Motors, or with Infineon, a leading German electronics maker, could offer Russia the kinds of high-tech expertise it needs.

Kommersant newspaper reported Friday that Russian conglomerate Sistema could buy a stake in Infineon but neither Medvedev nor Merkel gave any specifics.

While Merkel reiterated her concern about rights issues following a spate of murders in the turbulent Russian Caucasus, it was clear that business was the object of her talks with Medvedev.

Medvedev said the Kremlin was keeping a close eye on the situation in Germany's Wadan shipyards that employ thousands of German workers and that are now in insolvency proceedings.

He indicated that a new Russian investor could turn around the dockyards.

Analysts said Russian investment in key projects in Germany could help boost Merkel's standing ahead of September 27 elections but may not make a lot of sense for the Russian economy.

In coming to Russia to talk about fresh investment in the shipyards, Merkel wants to be seen as a "trustworthy and socially-oriented politician," said Alexander Rahr, a Russia expert with the German Council on Foreign Relations.

Neither Merkel nor Medvedev expanded on the economic projects under discussion but the Kremlin chief said fresh private investment could turn the situation around.

"I am hoping that a new pool of investors that is being created now will be much more efficient and successful," he said.

The Wadan shipyards, located in the former East Germany, Merkel's constituency, are controlled by Russian investors led by Andrei Burlakov, a private investor.

Kommersant reported Thursday that a Kremlin envoy and board member of gas giant Gazprom, Igor Yusufov, had made an offer to Burlakov to buy the dockyards. Gazprom said he was not acting on behalf of the company.

Infineon is a parent company of the struggling Dresden-based Qimonda chipmaker.

Like the Wadan dockyards, Qimonda is also located in eastern Germany.

AFP/Expatica

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