German Chancellor Makes Plea For Ukraine

BERLIN, Germany -- Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded on Monday that Russia allow its onetime subjects — particularly in Ukraine — to exercise the sovereign right to make alliances as they choose.

Angela Merkel

“The Cold War should be over for everyone,” Ms. Merkel said, making her first speech to the German Parliament since winning the general election in September. 

Ms. Merkel devoted the bulk of her 15-minute address to throwing Berlin’s considerable political and economic weight behind the European Union’s efforts to forge closer partnerships with six former Soviet republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Those nations have been invited to sign association agreements at a two-day meeting that opens Nov. 28 in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, one of three former Soviet republics that joined the European Union in 2004.

Ukraine, by far the biggest of the countries invited, has become the object of an East-West tug of war.

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels made clear on Monday that responsibility for Ukraine’s fate lay with its president, Viktor F. Yanukovich, an ally of Moscow who has nonetheless said he wants his country to be closer to Europe. 

Last week, though, the Ukrainian Parliament postponed consideration of a bill to allow the imprisoned former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, to leave the country for medical treatment in Germany.

The European Union wants the bill to be passed before it declares that Ukraine has met the conditions for entering an enhanced partnership.

Diplomats widely see Tuesday as the deadline for the Ukrainian Parliament to act. 

Ms. Merkel and the lawmakers from all parties who followed her to the lectern on Monday emphasized that the proposed agreements with former Soviet republics are “not directed against Russia” and could help Russia integrate with Europe, as the chancellor declared.

Moldova, Europe’s poorest country, and Georgia, which recently underwent a peaceful transition of power, are sure to sign agreements at the Vilnius meeting, Ms. Merkel said.

She lauded the Moldovans, in particular, for ignoring a Russian boycott of its wine exports, the country’s most important source of foreign exchange.

Armenia, on the other hand, has succumbed to Russian pressure, including a threatened cutoff of energy supplies, and will now join a customs union led by Russia that includes Belarus and Kazakhstan, Ms. Merkel said.

Ukraine is a cliffhanger, the chancellor said:

“It is not yet clear whether Ukraine is willing to create the conditions” to sign the association agreement with the European Union, which would open up trade and other economic benefits and make travel to Western Europe easier.

The debate over the union’s Eastern Partnership program in the German Parliament was followed by a lively discussion of the recent accusations that Germany’s most important ally, the United States, eavesdropped on millions of Germans, including the chancellor.

Ms. Merkel, displaying barely a trace of the anger that she voiced when the monitoring of her cellphone became known, seemed intent on tamping down the hard feelings that have developed over the affair.

Still, she insisted that the United States had work to do to restore the confidence needed, for example, to negotiate a free trade accord with the European Union.

The spying accusations “are grave,” the chancellor said.

“They must be cleared up. And, more important still: for the future, we must build new trust.”

In the debate, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a former foreign minister and member of the Social Democrats, with whom Ms. Merkel is now negotiating a new coalition government, said there was more to the matter than merely the discovery that the United States had spied on Germany.

“People sense that this is not a one-time oversight,” Mr. Steinmeier told the Parliament.

“People sense that this is about a very basic question. This is about which moral and political guidelines do we need in this modern, digital 21st century?”

Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, has disclosed information about the agency’s surveillance operations to various publications — in Germany, primarily to the news weekly Der Spiegel.

Several prominent politicians and intellectuals on the left have demanded that Mr. Snowden, who now has temporary asylum in Russia, be given shelter in Germany and be allowed to answer questions before a full-fledged parliamentary inquiry.

The chancellor’s conservative bloc and the Social Democrats used their combined majority on Monday to reject opposition calls for an inquiry.

Still, such an inquiry could be established after Ms. Merkel is sworn in as head of a new government, which is expected to happen on Dec. 17.

Source: The New York Times