HELSINKI, September 17. /TASS/. Europe and Russia have a long way to go before they bring relations back to normal but there is a need to maintain dialogue with Russia instead of isolating it, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday in an interview with the Finnish Helsingin Sanomat newspaper ahead of his visit to Finland.
"No one can be happy about the current state of Germany and Europe’s relations with Russia," he said. According to Steinmeier, Russia’s activities in eastern Ukraine and Crimea greatly affected relations. "We want to improve relations but we still have a long way to be before we bring them back to normal. However, Russia remains Europe’s neighbor and Finland is the country that understands it better than others," he added.
The German president pointed out that it was not right to isolate Russia. "Those who wish to look not only to the past but to the future as well, need to search for ways to communicate, particularly in hard times," he said.
Steinmeier also noted that issues related to Russia should be discussed with Russia. "At least, this was what I did last autumn, when I met with President Putin in Russia. These kind of discussions will not improve anything in an instant but I am sure that if we keep silent, risks will grow and no new alternatives will emerge," he added.
"I have the same approach as the German government and [Finnish President Sauli] Niinisto. I am pleased that I will be able to discuss the matter with him," Steinmeier concluded.
The German president’s three-day visit to Finland will begin on Monday. Steinmeier is scheduled to meet with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Parliament Speaker Paula Risikko, as well as to hold talks with Prime Minister Juha Sipila. He is also expected to visit the University of Oulu and Finland’s new Polaris icebreaker.