• Germany's news in English

State leader defends 'Russia Day'

The Local · 17 Sep 2014, 08:44

Published: 17 Sep 2014 08:44 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

“It's in the interest of our state to build up our economic relationships with Russia further,” Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state premier Erwin Sellering said of the planned event in Rostock from September 30th to October 1st.

“I think the event is the right signal even in the current situation.”

He added lots of firms in the region had shown interest in doing business with Russia despite mutually-applied sanctions banning the import of certain types of food from the EU. Russia is the state's biggest trading partner.

The Social Democrat (SPD) premier of the north-eastern state was responding to criticism of his state's policy that has mounted as the date of the “Russia Day” approaches.

He has been called a “Putin sympathizer” by fellow politicians and media commentators for sticking to the plans, while Germany and Russia are at odds over the Ukraine crisis.

But he dismissed those calling him a "Putin Versteher" - a German term for those who are sympathetic towards Putin's policies - in a pugnacious interview with the Welt newspaper last week.

“The stupidest contributors to this crisis are those who speak dismissively of people who try to understand Putin. It's the so-called Putin sympathisers who are trying to find a way out of this crisis,” Sellering argued.

“My experiences enable me to judge in this matter,” he continued in the most striking section of the interview.

“I learned that in a conflict no-one is 100 percent in the right. You only find common ground when you try to take the interests of your counterpart seriously... you can't speak eye-to-eye unless you understand what's going on inside the other person.”

While mutually applied sanctions are already hitting the balance sheets of Russian banks and German farmers, Sellering said it was important to maintain economic lines of communication.

“It's important to keep conversations going, even in tough times,” he said. “A regional business meeting like this can be a small contribution to that.”

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) is also scheduled to take part in the Russia Day, and the state premier leans on his example as someone who “managed to build up a relationship of partnership with Russia”.

Schröder joined the board of Russian energy giant Gazprom after leaving office and was criticized in April for celebrating his 70th birthday in St Petersburg with Russia President Vladimir Putin

Story continues below…

He has also defended Russia's response to the Ukraine crisis.

But the feeling that good relations with Russia shouldn't be sacrificed over Ukraine isn't restricted to left-wing politicians in Germany.

The right-wing anti-euro party Alternative for Germany (AfD) also contains "Putin Versteher" among its ranks. Two of its politicians in the European Parliament - Beatrix von Storch and Marcus Pretzell - voted against Ukraine's association agreement with the European Union on Tuesday.

SEE ALSO: Russia 'severed' from Europe: President Gauck

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Parents who don't get nursery spot for kid entitled to pay
Photo: DPA

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday that parents whose children don't receive placements in nursery care are entitled to compensation.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd