Germany Set to Intensify Civil Society Dialogue With Russia

HANOVER, April 7 (RIA Novosti) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday Berlin plans to broaden the discussion on civil society and human rights with the Russian government.

Speaking at the opening of the Hannover Messe (Hanover Fair), Merkel stressed that a full-fledged cooperation between Germany and Russia needs “active civil society.”

“We spoke about this a lot, also in the framework of the St. Petersburg dialogue. And we must intensify this discussion and continue developing our contradictory views,” Merkel said, adding that NGOs should have “chances” in Russia.

Nationwide NGO inspections have been taking place in Russia since March, and most observers had linked them to a new law that tightens control on NGOs and obliges those that receive foreign funding to register as “foreign agents.” Many NGO activists have complained of unexpected and time-consuming raids.

The inspections have also affected a number of German NGOs, prompting a critical statement from German government spokesman Steffen Seibert.

“Our foundations and their partners in Russian society play an important role in the development of German-Russian relations,” Seibert said last week. “Measures that impair their work or criminalize them damage our relations.”


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