Merkel, Medvedev to meet on economy, cooperation

BERLIN, July 13, 2011 (AFP) - The leaders of Germany and Russia, along with most of their ministers, will meet next week to sign a range of business deals and pacts deepening political cooperation, the government said Wednesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will host Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in the northern city of Hanover for a working dinner late Monday followed by a meeting of most of their cabinets on Tuesday.

Government spokeswoman Sabine Heimbach told a regular government briefing that a major business delegation would accompany Medvedev amid reports Russian energy giant Gazprom is considering taking a strategic stake in Germany's RWE.

Heimbach declined to comment on any deal, saying she did not want to "preempt" the discussion in Hanover.

Germany will send nine cabinet members and two state secretaries to meet with their Russian counterparts.

More than a dozen agreements on economic and environmental cooperation, particularly in the area of stopping deforestation, will also be signed, she said.

"Projects in the areas of health and demography, energy efficiency, transportation and logistics and legal cooperation have been selected and will be implemented," she added.

Germany is Russia's most important trade partner. Exports to Germany reached 31.8 billion euros ($44.7 billion dollars) last year -- primarily gas and oil -- while imports from Germany hit 26.4 billion euros.

The visit comes amid a controversy in Berlin over that announcement that a prominent political prize would go to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in October.

A leader of Germany's opposition Green party resigned in protest Tuesday from the board awarding the Quadriga prize saying Putin did not embody the award's democratic ideals, and the selection has generated a storm of criticism over the prime minister's rights record.

Neither Putin nor Medvedev have said which of them will run in presidential elections scheduled for March.

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