German chancellor makes plea on behalf of former Soviet republics
BERLIN — 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.
“The Cold War should be over for everyone,” Merkel said, making her first speech to the German Parliament since winning the general election in September.
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 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.
Merkel and the lawmakers from all parties who followed her to the lectern 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.
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.
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.