BERLIN, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- German business representatives expressed optimism on Thursday that an upcoming meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin could mark a further step towards an improvement in bilateral relations between the two countries.
"The intensity of exchange between Germany and Russia has increased significantly during the past months. This is a desirable development," Wolfgang Buechele, president of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, told press. Buechele said that fresh proposals made by Putin on the future direction of the peace progress in Ukraine during the meeting on Saturday could open up a "new positive agenda for European-Russian relations."
The committee president said a "real normalization" of international cooperation between Moscow and Berlin would only become possible once the Ukrainian obstacle had been cleared. Buechele said assurances made recently by Russia to keep using Ukraine as a transit country for gas deliveries to Europe were encouraging in this context.
The German committee has repeatedly warned that U.S. sanctions against Russia would cause harm to German companies as well, particularly those involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. The United States and some Eastern European countries, including Ukraine and Poland, have attacked Nord Stream 2 as allegedly being politically-motivated and devoid of economic value.
But German business leaders remain steadfast in their support of the pipeline which was first proposed in 1995.
"Nord Stream 2 is a project of European energy companies based on a clear economic calculation: The routes to the new production areas in North Siberia are shorter and the transport costs are lower in the long-term than holds for existing routes via Ukraine," a statement by the German committee in response to U.S. criticism recently read.
German-Russian trade grew again for the first time in five years in 2017 to a total volume of 57 billion euros (64.8 billion U.S. dollars). Exports by German companies to the country were 26 billion euros. (1 euro = 1.14 dollars)