Putin, Schroeder and Chirac meet in Kaliningrad

4th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

4 July 2005, KALININGRAD - Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac met for talks Sunday on the fringes of the 750th anniversary celebrations of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

4 July 2005

KALININGRAD - Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac met for talks Sunday on the fringes of the 750th anniversary celebrations of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

The three leaders met in Svetlogorsk on the Baltic, around 50 kilometres from Kaliningrad, to discuss issues such as Iran's controversial nuclear programme, Iraq and the July 6-8 meeting in Scotland of the seven most industrialised nations and Russia (G8).

Topics at the G8 summit will include climate change and the British plan to increase aid and debt relief for Africa, which all three politicians voiced their support for.

The meeting was somewhat overshadowed by Russia's decision not to invite the leaders of neighbouring Poland and Lithuania to the anniversary celebrations.

Kaliningrad, formerly known as Koenigsberg, is a small sliver of territory on the Baltic Sea, surrounded by Poland and Lithuania, with almost one million people, almost all of whom are Russians. The region was taken over by the Soviet Union after Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II.

The celebrations are an internal Russian affair, Putin said after meeting with Schroeder and Chirac. He added that more than 100 "friends" from neighbouring countries were invited to the celebrations. However, many of them are low-ranking politicians such as the mayor of a neighbouring Polish town.

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski angrily described what is widely seen as a calculated political snub by Moscow as "more than a mistake".

Later Sunday Schroeder and Putin were to visit a university named after the German philosopher Immanuel Kant as well as his grave. Koenigsberg, founded in 1255, was the former capital of East Prussia.

Kaliningrad was a top-secret military region and naval base during the Cold War. Since the early 1990s there have been hopes it would develop as a special Russian economic zone given that it is now totally surrounded by European Union member countries. However, Russian authorities have been slow to liberalize.

During a lighthearted moment at their meeting, Chirac entertained Schroeder and Putin with anti-British jokes, according to the daily Liberation.

"The only thing the British contributed to European agriculture was mad cow disease," Chirac was reported to have told the two leaders.

Apparently in good form despite his slumping popularity at home, Chirac went on by saying, "You cannot trust people who cook so badly," adding: "With the exception of Finland, (Britain) is the country where you get the worst food."

Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have clashed repeatedly over various issues, most recently the E.U. budget. Chirac has demanded that Britain give up its annual E.U. rebate, while Blair wants the Union to enact cuts in its farm subsidies programme, from which France profits the most.

With tongue firmly in cheek, Chirac went on to recount how former NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson made him taste a certain specialty of Scotland.

"That's where our difficulties with NATO began," the French president reportedly quipped.

© DPA with Expatica

Subject: German news

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