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Bilateral relations

Merkel and Hollande discuss Ukraine, Alstom

The German and French leaders say Russia could face more EU sanctions if Ukrainian elections do not go ahead as planned. They also discussed a possible partial merger of engineering giants Siemens and Alstom.

Merkel und Hollande meet in Stralsund

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Saturday issued a joint statement threatening Russia with further sanctions if an election in Ukraine planned for May 25 does not go ahead.

"If there is not an internationally recognized presidential election, that would lead unavoidably to a further destabilization of the country," the statement said.

"Germany and France are in agreement that if that is the case then corresponding consequences would be drawn as outlined by the European Council on March 6, 2014." This refers to a third stage of sanctions, in particular economic sanctions, agreed to by EU leaders on that date.

The two leaders also called on all sides to begin disarming irregular forces in Ukraine under the supervision of the OSCE by May 15 at the latest, and urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to do more to reduce tensions in the country.

Moscow is being accused by many Western countries of fomenting unrest in Ukraine after annexing the Crimean Peninsula and supporting pro-Russian insurgents in the east of the country.

Possible takeover bid

Merkel and Hollande also used the second day of the French president's visit to Germany to talk about a mooted partial merger between German engineering company Siemens and its French counterpart Alstom.

At their talks in the northern German coastal resort of Stralsund, both leaders refused, however, to take a clear position on the matter.

"These are business decisions and we on the German side at least will not interfere," Merkel said after the talks.

Like Hollande, she said that it was necessary to wait and see if Siemens made a formal merger offer, adding that the German government would "positively accompany" such a move if the companies were willing.

Hollande said the French government would focus above all on what was the best outcome for Alsom and Siemens employees.

Alstom's management favors a rival offer from US company General Electric, but the French government has made clear its opposition to a trans-Atlantic takeover.

tj/ipj (AP, Reuters)

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