APPENDIX 5: EVIDENCE TAKEN DURING VISIT
TO BERLIN |
Wednesday 26-Friday 28 November 2014
Seven members of the Committee (accompanied by the
Specialist Adviser and the Clerk) visited Berlin. The aims of
the visit were to take evidence from relevant witnesses in Germany,
and to explore German objectives and concerns regarding the EU's
relationship with Russia.
Members visiting: Lord Tugendhat (Chairman), Baroness
Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, Baroness Coussins, Baroness Henig,
Lord Lamont of Lerwick, Lord Radice, Earl of Sandwich.
In attendance: Dr Samuel Greene (Specialist Adviser)
and Miss Sarah Jones (Clerk).
Day One: Wednesday 26 November
Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations
The Committee held a private discussion with Dr Eckhard
Cordes, President of the Committee on Eastern European Economic
Day Two: Thursday 27 November
The Committee took evidence from Mr Martin Hoffman,
Executive Director, German-Russian Forum.
Mr Hoffman began by outlining the work of the German-Russian
Forum, which was established 20 years ago to promote social initiatives
between Germany and Russia. Members of the Forum included companies
and individuals from all areas of public life, including scientists,
civil society organisations and academics. The Forum did not represent
the interests of business, though its activities were partly financed
The German-Russian Forum also played a role in the
Petersburg Dialogue. The annual Petersburg Dialogue forum was
established in 2001 at the initiative of the Russian President
Vladimir Putin and the then-Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schroeder.
The Petersburg Dialogue forum was aimed at increasing mutual understanding
between Russia and Germany, to broaden bilateral co-operation
between the two countries.
Mr Hoffman noted that in recent months there had
been much debate in Germany regarding the stance that should be
taken towards Russia. While many advocated taking a hard line,
many others urged political leaders to take a more understanding
approach towards Russia.
In Mr Hoffman's view, relations with Russia were
now worse than during the Cold War. This was because, during the
Cold War, Russia did at least have respect for the US. However,
there was now much less dialogue between Russia and the West,
and many Russian people had a general dislike for the West. This
was partly due to a difference in approach. Mr Hoffman suggested
that countries such as Germany were more inclined to focus on
the details of agreements, such as the Petersburg Dialogue, whereas
Russia attached more importance to signs and gestures which indicated
respect for Russia. In recent years there had been a series of
incidents whereby the West had caused offence to Russia. One example
of this had been the Olympic Games held in Sochi, which had been
a big event for Russia, but which Western media had criticised
and some Western leaders had shunned.
In terms of the membership of the German-Russian
Forum, Mr Hoffman noted that most of its members were young leaders.
Although the Forum tried to enhance understanding between the
two countries, there was often a lack of understanding and frustration
at the approaches taken by the other nation. For example, some
German non-governmental organisations working in Russia often
wanted to promote democracy and proactively encourage change in
Russia. However, young leaders in Russia were often less concerned
about democracy and more worried about being able to access an
open and unmonitored internet.
In terms of building a constructive relationship
for the future, Mr Hoffman suggested that the EU needed to change
its approach to Russia and focus more on the signs and gestures
made towards Russia. As an example, Russian people felt that Russia
made a great sacrifice during World War II in order to help Europe,
but that this was not often recognised. Mr Hoffman suggested that
politicians should, where possible, continue to include Russia
in wider, cultural events, such as commemorations to mark World
War II in 2015.
Mr Hoffman also felt that the EU needed to make a
greater effort to separate the political conflict from the EU's
relationship with Russian people. For the recent celebrations
in Berlin to mark the falling of the Berlin wall, Mikhail Gorbachev
had been invited. Mr Hoffman suggested that it would have been
a sign of unity, and of respect for Russia's shared interest in
Berlin's history, to have invited President Putin to those celebrations
Mr Hoffman noted that Germany used to be thought
of well by the Russian people, but that recent polls had shown
that support for Germany was declining among Russian people and
that, in Russia, there was a general feeling of disappointment
with Germany. He recognised that there was significant pressure
on Chancellor Merkel to be outspoken and to take a tough line
towards Russia. However, Germany was still the best placed EU
Member State to reach out to Russia and should try to use its
shared history and past understanding to continue to engage with
The Committee took evidence from Dr Christoph Heusgen,
Foreign Policy and Security Adviser to Chancellor Merkel, Federal
Dr Heusgen outlined the ways in which he thought
the EU should approach its relationship with Russia, and the actions
that EU Member States should take in response to the current crisis.
First, he felt that the EU had a moral obligation
to support countries under pressure from Russia. This included
helping the citizens of Ukraine, who should have a sovereign right
to choose the future path of their country.
Second, Dr Heusgen noted that if Russia did not follow
international laws, then EU Member States had to remain unified
and continue to impose sanctions that had an impact on Russia.
Third, he felt that the EU also needed to remain
ready to talk to President Putin. Chancellor Merkel had spent
many hours speaking to President Putin about the current crisis
and the implementation of the Minsk Protocol. He added that there
was always the offer of dialogue with President Putin.
Committee on Foreign Affairs, German Bundestag
The Committee held a private discussion with members
of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the German Bundestag.
Federal Foreign Office
The Committee took evidence from Dr Hans-Dieter Lucas,
Political Director, Federal Foreign Office.
Dr Lucas began by noting that the Federal Foreign
Office was exploring ways in which to resolve the current crisis
in relations between the EU and Russia. The priority was to ensure
that the criteria set out in the Minsk Protocol were met and that
there was a ceasefire in Ukraine. Dr Lucas felt that Russia's
annexation of Crimea was a reaction to events in Ukraine, rather
than a pre-prepared plan. The possibilities for the future were
unclear and it was possible that Crimea could end up as a frozen
Sanctions were not an end in themselves, but were
a tool to achieve a change in Russia's behaviour. Dr Lucas felt
there were signs that the sanctions targeted at particular people,
and at the financial sector, were beginning to have an impact.
Sanctions would only be eased if there was a change in Russia's
There were two types of sanctions regimes. First,
there were sanctions relating to the annexation of Crimea. There
was no progress on Crimea and so the Federal Foreign Office was
now considering whether tougher sanctions should be developed
in this area. Second, there were sanctions regarding eastern Ukraine.
There was also room for more positive progress in this area too.
Discussing the Eastern Partnership, Dr Lucas felt
it was clear that the policy did not constitute an EU accession
agreement. The European Neighbourhood Policy, and the Eastern
Partnership, brought countries closer to the EU and offered the
potential for those countries to integrate their economies with
the EU through DCFTAs, but that was as far as the policies extended
and they did not offer future membership of the EU.
Dr Lucas recognised that Russia was concerned about
countries in the shared neighbourhood joining NATO. He noted that
NATO had three main criteria for accession: the accession must
enhance the security of the acceding country; the accession must
enhance the security of existing members of NATO; and the accession
must enhance the security of Europe as a whole. At the moment,
Dr Lucas did not think that Ukraine would meet those criteria
in order to join NATO.
Turning to the Eurasian Union, Dr Lucas felt that
the Eurasian Union was a tool to restore Russia to greatness as
a global power. However, he did not think that Russia planned
further territorial expansions.
Both the Chancellor and the Foreign Ministry were
working along a dual-track policy, which involved enforcing economic
and financial sanctions, while also continuing to communicate
with Russia. However, the amount of contact between the German
and Russian governments had been reduced. In the past, there had
been joint meetings of the German and Russian cabinets, which
had been suspended. Apart from the Chancellor and Foreign Minister,
most other ministerial meetings had also been cancelled, though
meetings regarding sports and culture had continued.
According to Dr Lucas, the German government was
convinced that Germany's position towards Russia could only be
effective if supported by a broader EU consensus. It could sometimes
be hard to achieve this consensus, but Member States had come
together remarkably quickly to agree the sanctions regimes, which
were also broadly in line with sanctions imposed by the US. The
EU would need to consider whether to continue the sanctions in
2015 and the EU was working with the US to ensure that the sanctions
policies of both were broadly in line.
Federation of German Industries
The Committee took evidence from Dr Markus Kerber,
Director General, Federation of German Industries (BDI).
Dr Kerber began by noting that the crisis in Ukraine
was the biggest external threat to central Europe at the moment,
with the crisis affecting countries across Europe, whether or
not they were members of the EU. According to the BDI, German
exports to Russia had decreased by 17% in the period January-August
2014, compared to the same period the previous year. In monetary
terms, this meant that exports had decreased from approximately
24bn to approximately 20bn.
In general, the BDI fully supported the political
course of the German government and the economic sanctions against
Russia. In its view, the EU had a strong role to play in the crisis
and could not let Russia's breaches of international law go unanswered.
Sanctions imposed by the EU were having a variable effect on different
types of businesses in different countries. Some German companies
were heavily dependent on business with Russia and were being
hurt by the current sanctions regime. BDI knew from its partners
that the sanctions had also brought the Russian economy under
There was some legal uncertainty regarding the sanctions
regimes as some of the regulations lacked clarity in the text.
The BDI was therefore lobbying for greater clarity in the sanctions.
There was also the risk of an uneven enforcement of sanctions
across EU Member States, as the enforcement lay within each Member
State's competence. In some areas, it was felt that Germany had
enforced the sanctions more stringently than other EU Member States.
Alongside Germany, the UK and the Netherlands also tended to enforce
the sanctions strictly, meaning that businesses in those countries
suffered more. Dr Kerber felt that a lot of energy had been spent
discussing which countries had been affected the most, which meant
that the overall goal of the sanctions had sometimes been lost.
However, despite these concerns, remarkably there
was still a lot of support for the sanctions among the German
population and the German business community. In Dr Kerber's view,
in some Member States there tended to be the view that if Russia's
behaviour had not worsened then the sanctions should be lifted.
However, the German position was that if Russia's behaviour had
not improved, then the sanctions should continue. Dr Kerber noted
that some Russian people felt as though Russia was encircled by
the West, and that Germany was keen not to exacerbate those fears.
However, those threat perceptions were not an excuse for Russia's
actions in Ukraine and the sanctions were therefore necessary
in order to send a strong message to Russia.
In terms of energy, work was underway to develop
alternative supplies, but Dr Kerber thought that it would take
at least a decade to build a supply chain for natural gas that
was independent of Russia. He stressed that this work had been
started before the current crisis and that it was not just a response
to Russia's recent actions. Dr Kerber felt that it was important
to help Russia to overcome its own dependency on fossil fuel exports.
When asked about corruption, Dr Kerber answered that
corruption was not the biggest problem when it came to business
in Russia. A bigger problem was that Russian businesses did not
have freedom in the market. There were some fears that if you
had potent consumers then you had potent citizens. Russia was
therefore wary of the side effects that an open market economy
might have for the stability of the country.
The Committee held a private discussion with His
Excellency Sir Simon McDonald KCMG, British Ambassador to the
Federal Republic of Germany, Mr Bernhard Müller-Härlin,
Program Director International Affairs, K½rber Stiftung,
Dr Alexander Libman, Associate of Eastern Europe and Eurasia Division,
Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Dr Alexander Kallweit, Head
of International Dialog, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Ms Beate
Apelt, Desk Officer for East and Southeast Europe, Friedrich Naumann
Stiftung für die Freiheit.
Day Three: Friday 28 November
Committee on the Affairs of the European Union,
The Committee held a private discussion with members
of the Committee on the Affairs of the European Union of the German
The Committee held a private discussion with Mr Nick
Pickard, Deputy Head of Mission, British Embassy Berlin.