Merkel and Putin disagree on NGOs

Merkel and Putin disagree on NGOs
By Euronews
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Female protesters bared all in a demonstration directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The FEMEN protesters shouted the word ‘dictator’ at Putin as he accompanied German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, at Germany’s largest industrial fair.

In a slightly more restrained reproach, Merkel also confronted the issue of Russia’s recent crackdown on NGOs saying: “Russia should give a chance to NGOs and to many organisations which we know in Germany to be a motor for innovations.”

In recent weeks Russia have been carrying out an increasing number of random inspections on non-governmental organisations.

The searches come after Putin approved laws that tighten controls on groups that accept foreign funding.

Several German NGOs have been investigated, as has Amnesty International and Memorial, Russia’s oldest human rights organisation.

In the past Putin has accused NGOs of spying and influencing domestic politics.

Further, clothed, protests took place elsewhere in Germany in response to Putins visit.

We were joined in our Brussels studio by Christian Forstner, director of the Hanns Seidel Foundation which has an office in Moscow.

Euronews: The most evident point of disagreement between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin in Hannover seems to be the treatment of foreign NGO’s.

Forstner: Some people mistrust foreign NGOs. This is how their actions can be understood. The Russian authority have to acknowledge that modernisation as a whole is not only limited to the economy but it’s a broad concept of political and societal modernisation.

Euronews: So if Moscow lets you know that your help to the civil society is unwanted…

Forstner: We have different partners. One of them can be a more official partner, other partners come from the civil society organisations. There is one clear signal. And even Russian politics and Russian authorities never did send a signal that our work is not welcomed.

Euronews: Don’t you share Mr Putin’s concern, or at least understand, that a billion euros were spend on this activity which is a foreign activity inside Russia?

Forstner: This is for buildings, for rent, for conferences, for logistics, for interpreters – all that you need to organise proper conference, to bring people together, to discuss things. It doesn’t mean that a billion goes to any kind of subversive action.

Euronews: Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin speak each others languages, they understand each other well. They could be friends. But instead Mr Putin congratulates (on birthday: ed) former chancellor Schroeder…

Forstner: For Chancellor Schroeder it was a very clear exchange, Russia’s raw materials for Germany’s know-how and technology. It was an ideal win-win situation. For Angela Merkel it might be a bit more difficult. She is more rational, she understands that it’s no-single-issue partnership. Russian economy too much depends on export of raw materials. This has to be changed in the interest of Russian society.

Euronews: Angela Merkel didn’t seem to approve the action of FEMEN in her presence. Does anybody in Germany agree with what these Ukrainian women protest against – which is the detention of Pussy Riot punk group and authoritarian tendencies in Russia?


Forstner: It is a very provocative form of showing your interests on something. FEMEN might be too radical because the victims of such attacks cannot react. But for Angela Merkel, she made it very clear that she doesn’t agree with the sentencing of the music band Pussy Riot.

Christian Forstner, from the Hanns Seidel Foundation, thank you for talking to Euronews.

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