Germany's Minister Urges Less Red Tape

German Economics Minister Michael Glos on Friday urged the Russian government to step up its battle against bureaucracy and to improve the legal environment for investors.

"We must reduce bureaucracy, we know that from our own experience," Glos told a conference in Moscow, adding that red tape was "a Hydra growing more heads as you chop them off." He also said that while Russia had modern laws, their application in the regions needed improvement.

Glos also criticized the spat between Lufthansa and the government about overflight rights. "It is sad when such things are allowed to tarnish the public image," he said.

The German carrier's cargo division was hit by a ban from Russian airspace last month, which was only lifted after it agreed to negotiate to move its hub from Kazakhstan to Siberia, triggering complaints from the German government.

Glos spoke at the opening of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce Abroad, which he called an engine in bilateral economic relations.

Bilateral trade has been booming recently, reaching almost $43 billion in 2006 and making Germany the country's biggest trade partner.

This year's trade figure is expected to reach $50 billion.

Glos also expressed hope that Russia would soon become a member of the World Trade Organization. "There are hopeful signals from Geneva," he said, referring to the WTO's headquarters.

While Economic Development and Trade Minister Elvira Nabiullina and Chamber of Commerce and Industry head Yevgeny Primakov only sent deputies to the conference, Nabiullina's predecessor, German Gref -- now head of Sberbank -- made an appearance.

Gref praised the German-Russian chamber's founding as a "logical step for Germany and a pragmatic one for Russia."