What's Up Europe? Germany and Poland have mixed feelings on Russia
President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minster David Cameron, U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso attend a meeting of the G7 leaders on March 24, 2014 in The Hague, Netherlands. The G7 countries are meeting to discuss the recent developments in Ukraine, and to consider their response and any sanctions to be imposed upon Russia in answer to its annexing of the Crimea region.
After spending the first half of the week on Ukraine and Crimea, President Obama was in Rome on Thursday visiting with the Pope and taking a tour of the Coliseum. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has prepared an $18 billion aid package for Ukraine and Congress has voted to chip in another $1 billion.
Now that sanctions are in place, what is the climate like in Europe?
John Beauchamp is a reporter for Polskie Radio. He said there’s not much cause for alarm in Poland, but tensions with Russia could have a long-term economic impact on the country.
“In the first three months, from January to mid-March, we had a 7.3 percent year-on-year drop on exports to Russia,” said Beauchamp. “We’ve had, in the same period, a 6.3 percent year-on-year drop to Ukraine.”
Beauchamp said while these may sound like small numbers, they represent a one-fifth of Poland’s exports.
Economically, Germany wields the biggest stick in the situation in Crimea. It is the European Union’s biggest exporter to Russia and has over $19 billion tied up in long term projects there.
Thomas Marzahl is a freelance journalist stationed in Berlin. He said Germans are starting to worry about rising energy prices more than anything.
“Germans have seen their energy bills skyrocket over the last couple of years, even as worldwide energy prices have fallen,” said Marzahl. “Any sanctions that might be put on the Russian energy industry may hit the Germans and their pocketbooks.”