Comment on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s working visit to Germany

1353-11-07-2017

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Between July 12-13 Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay a working visit to Germany. Together with German Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs  Sigmar Gabriel Mr Lavrov will take part in a  ceremony devoted to the  closing of the 2016-2017 Russian-German Cross Year of Youth Exchanges. Mr Lavrov is expected to speak at the German Koerber Foundation.

The Russian Foreign Minister will hold talks with his German counterpart. They will continue exchanging views on key international issues, including the implementation of the Minsk agreements on settling the Ukrainian crisis as well as the  promotion of the peace process in Syria, consolidation of European security,  and the struggle against international terrorism. The ministers will discuss the results of the G20 summit held between July 7-8 in Hamburg, the current state of Russian-German relations plus  practical bilateral matters .

The 2016-2017 Russian-German Year of Youth Exchanges is a large-scale cultural and humanitarian initiative implemented in line with an agreement reached between President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. A joint statement of the Russian and German foreign ministers on the holding of the reciprocal year was published on March 23, 2016.

The opening ceremony of the Year took place in Moscow on June 9, 2016. On the Russian side the Ministry of Education and Science was primarily in charge of organising and holding the Year. Over 200 events were conducted as part of the project, including sessions of the Russian-German Youth Forum, Russian-German Youth Parliament, the conference of the organisers of youth and school exchanges, “70 Years Since the End of World War II: Youth Exchange-Mutual Understanding-Common Future,” and others.

The Year of Youth Exchanges will be followed by a new Russian-German joint project – the 2017-2018 Cross Year of Regional and Municipal Partnerships. Mr Lavrov and Mr Gabriel announced the launching of this initiative at the 14th Conference of Russian and German Partner Cities in Krasnodar on June 28, 2017 and took the year under their patronage.

Implementation of this large-scale interstate project will facilitate intensive contacts between Russia and Germany. Representatives of all Russian regions and German federal lands will get  an opportunity to take part in the events of the year, which will become a major factor in the development of multi-faceted cooperation on a local level. Project participants will give priority to inter-city cooperation, exchange of experience in housing and utilities, architecture and construction, development of cooperation in culture, education, sports and tourism, youth exchanges, and civil society contacts.

The foreign ministries of Russia and Germany will be the coordinators of the Year. The German-Russian Forum was assigned the functions of executive secretariat and operational management by the German side, while the Russian side allotted the role of an operator responsible for all organisational points  to the Union of Russian Cities non-profit organisation, which is a partner of the German-Russian Forum.

According to the Russian Federal Customs Service, in 2016 Russian-German trade decreased by 11.1 per cent as compared to 2015 and amounted to $40.7 billion. Russian exports to Germany went down by 16.1 per cent to $21.3 billion, and imports by 4.8 per cent to $19.4 billion.

In the first four months of 2017, bilateral trade increased by 28.8 per cent to make $15.4 billion as compared to $12 billion in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Germany is one of Russia’s main trading partners. Its share in Russia's foreign trade turnover amounts to nine per cent (second to China with 14.3 per cent). According to the Bank of Russia, the aggregate amount of accumulated German investment exceeds $16 billion.

About 5,600 companies with participation of German capital are operating on the Russian market. Their aggregate turnover exceeds $50 billion and they employ about 270,000 people. There are about 1,500 companies with Russian capital in Germany, with Russia’s total direct investment in Germany totalling about 3.2 billion euros.

Interregional, cultural and humanitarian relations and contacts between public organisations are a major component of bilateral cooperation.

The Petersburg Dialogue Russian-German Public Forum occupies a special place in the structure of Russian-German inter-public ties. Its 16th plenary session will take place in Berlin in the autumn of 2017. The Potsdam Meetings (a regular conference took place in Berlin between June 22-23, 2017) are a popular venue for informal discussions.

Cooperation in historical research is making tangible progress. The Commission for Studying the Recent History of Russian-German Relations, whose Russian co-chair is Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of World History, Academician Alexander Chubaryan, is making active efforts in this sphere. Its anniversary meeting was held in Moscow on July 6-7 2017.

There are about 3,310 Soviet war graves on the German territory, where 760,000 Soviet and Russian citizens are buried. The German side is taking care of these Soviet war burials in line with the intergovernmental agreement on the protection of war graves of December 16, 1992.

Since 2000, the Russian side in cooperation with Germany's Saxon Memorials Foundation has been implementing a project on determining the destinies of Soviet and German POWs and internees under the patronage of the foreign ministers of the two countries. During the period under review they have established personal data of about one million Soviet citizens and 1.5 million Germans in cooperation with the archives of Russia, Germany, Belarus and Ukraine.

The authorised  agencies – the Russian Defence Ministry’s Directorate of Memorialisation of the Fallen Defenders of the Motherland and the German People’s Union for the Care of War Graves – are coordinating the parametres of a project on finding and digitising archive information on Soviet and German POWs and internees.

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