April 08 - As President Putin visits Germany and Holland - Russia's biggest trade partners in Europe - Ciara Sutton looks at how uneasy Europe is getting about the Russian leader's influence thanks to Europe's needs for Russian energy and as a market for exports.
A show of unity as Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel tour the Hanover fair. Russia is this year's partner at the world's biggest industrial exhibition and Russian companies are out in force. Germany gets 30 percent of its oil and 40 percent of its gas from Russia and invests around $30 billion in the country. But there are tensions between the two over Putin's human rights record and his treatment of opponents. That says HSBC's Philip Poole that makes if difficult for Russia to attract international investment. SOUNDBITE: HSBC, PHILIP POOLE, SAYING: "I think that fundamental to all of this really is to have economic reforms from the government in Russia and to have a more consistent approach over a longer period to generating a more conducive business environment for that type of business investment. So I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done if Russia's really to diversify its economy." Merkel has been under pressure at home to voice concerns to Putin. The difficult subjects include Syria, Russian criticism of the German-orchestrated bailout of Cyprus and inspections of NGO's . (SOUNDBITE) (German) GERMAN CHANCELLOR, ANGELA MERKEL, SAYING: "The president has assured me once again that it was not about hindering the work of the NGOs. However, I made clear that we are concerned that non-governmental organisations are unable to operate in a way they would like to. I made clear again that Germany supports a strong civil society and many non-governmental organisations." Putin may not take any action over that issue but he insists Russia can be a strong partner for Germany.