Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Trouble in Tomsk?

Having arriving in Berlin for different discussions, the themes here are not too different from those in London.

Chancellor Merkel and six members of the government have gone off to Tomsk in Siberia for the first big summit with Russia of her govermment.

Together with a large business delegation, they are meeting President Putin and a sizeable chunk of the Russian government.

Issue number one of the rather large agenda - judging by the media reports - seems to be energy. Surprise, surprise.

And the first round of talks centered around these issues seems to have been rather difficult. Seeing Merkel and Putin briefly meeting the press after the talks, it was obvious that there were distinct limits to their agreement on the issue.

Before meeting Merkel, Putin had taken the occasion of a speech to local representatives to repeat the message that if Russian demands are not meet then the gas will be sold to China rather than Europe.

If that is not pressure, then I don't know what pressure is.

Tomorrow will bring more information. Chancellor Merkel flies back to Berlin. And we will all have to listen carefully to her assessment of the talks.

In the meantime we are continuing our discussions on the future of Europe in the lovely green surroundings of Gruenewald in southwestern Berlin.