‘Russia will remain difficult partner for Europe,’ says German foreign minister

Germany’s new foreign minister Heiko Maas has said Russia will remain a difficult partner for Europe following Vladimir Putin's re-election - and questioned the fairness of the vote.

'Russia will remain difficult partner for Europe,' says German foreign minister
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends a meeting in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday. Photo: DPA

Maas added that Russia will be needed to help resolve international tensions.

The statement came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to congratulate Putin on his re-election as Russia’s president following Sunday’s election.

Mass told reporters in Brussels on Monday that “the result of the election in Russia did not surprise us any more than the circumstances of this election”.

“We certainly cannot talk in all respects about a fair political contest as we know it,” he said, before talks with his European Union counterparts.   

The minister said it was “unacceptable” that the Russian election also took place in Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine four years ago in breach of international law.

“In this respect, we assume that Russia will remain a difficult partner,” Maas added.   

“But Russia is also needed when it comes to resolving the major international conflicts and that is why we want to remain in dialogue,” the minister said.   

Russia is a key player in Ukraine, but also in the civil war in Syria and in the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.   

“We also expect Russia to make constructive contributions, more so than has been the case in the recent past,” he said.   Maas said the ministers will discuss the situation in the Ukraine where the EU accuses Moscow of supporting a rebellion in the east.  

The foreign ministers' meeting will also focus on British allegations that Russia used a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy in Britain, charges which Moscow denies.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel will congratulate Putin on his re-election, in a message that will also raise “challenges” in their relations, her spokesman said.  

“I cannot pre-empt the content of the congratulatory message, but I believe that the message will also mention the challenges in Germany and Russia's relations,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel's spokesman, told reporters.   

Berlin and Moscow have “differences in opinion” on issues ranging from Russian politics to the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, said Seibert.

“Nevertheless, the continuous contact with Russia's leadership is very important to us,” he stressed.


Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

It's official - people in Germany will get cheap public transport for three months this summer after the €9 ticket was approved.

Germany approves €9 public transport ticket for summer

As part of a host of energy relief measures to cushion the cost of living crisis, the German government is offering cheap public transport for the months of June, July and August. 

Monthly tickets will be available at a price of €9 (or €27 for all three months) and they will allow people to use all buses, trains and trams in local and regional transport throughout the country.

So even if people buy the ticket in Munich, they will also be able to use local and regional buses, trains and trams elsewhere in Germany, whether it’s Hamburg or Cologne. 

READ ALSO: How to explore Germany by train with the €9 ticket

The ticket will not be valid, however, on long-distance transport such as ICE trains or Flixbus.

The offer was put together by the coalition government – made of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the FDP.

The Bundestag voted for the initiative on Thursday, agreeing to give federal states a subsidy of €2.5 billion to fund the project. 

And on Friday, the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament that represents the states – gave the green light to the ticket, paving the way for it to begin on June 1st. 

States had wanted an extra €1.5 billion funding boost to deal with lost revenue, however it would have been hugely controversial if they had blocked it.

READ ALSO: German states threaten to block the €9 ticket in the Bundesrat

During a debate on Thursday, federal Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) said the €9 project was “already a success”.

“All of Germany is talking about local public transport,” he said, adding that it is also being viewed with interest abroad. 

READ ALSO: ‘Fantastic’: Your verdict on Germany’s €9 ticket

The Left party (Die Linke) voted in favour of the €9 ticket, but leader Bernd Riexinger said he thought the plan didn’t go far enough. “Three months is simply too little,” he said.

The opposition, however, slammed the move. Christian Democrat Michael Donth called it an “expensive experiment”.

Rail operator Deutsche Bahn will offer the ticket for sale as early as Monday. Local public transport providers across the country are also preparing their ticket machines for the initiative. It will also be available in travel centres.

People with subscriptions to local transport will automatically benefit from the offer. 

In some regions, such as Stuttgart and Freiburg, the ticket is already available for purchase.

READ ALSO: How to get a hold of the €9 ticket in Berlin