The 14th edition of German Week in St. Petersburg

The 14th edition of German Week was held in St. Petersburg from 5 to 12 April 2017 under the motto “Gateways to the world”. The week included a glittering and varied programme of attractive events in the fields of culture, education, society, economy, law and science.

This series of events is organised by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in partnership with the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce, Northwestern branch office, and the Goethe Institute and it offers platforms for strengthening and enhancing the many relations between German partners and partners in St. Petersburg. The partner state for this year’s German Week was the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, which in 2017 celebrates the 60th anniversary of its partnership with the city of St. Petersburg.
The IRZ also once again supported the German Consulate General in St. Petersburg, the Russian Law Academy of the Ministry of Justice for the Russian Federation and the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation as they prepared and developed the programme for a forum on “Constitutional justice in Russia and Germany” which was held on 7 April 2017 at the Ministry of Justice.

The high-profile conference was opened by the Consul General for the Federal Republic of Germany in St. Petersburg, Dr. Eltje Aderhold. On the Russian side, the participants were welcomed by Walerij D. Sorkin, Chairman of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, Dmitry J. Smirnov, Head of Central Office of the Russian Ministry of Justice for St. Petersburg, and Vadim A. Vinogradov, Head of the Chair for Constitutional Law and International Law at the Russian Law Academy of the Ministry of Justice for the Russian Federation.

On the German side, Friedrich-Joachim Mehmel, President of the Constitutional Court of Hamburg, Jes Möller, President of the Constitutional Court of the State of Brandenburg, and Anke Müller-Jacobsen, a judge at the Constitutional Court of the State of Berlin, contributed to the conference with presentations on comparative law.

German and Russian law professionals discussed current issues concerning constitutional justice in Russia and Germany, such as the legal framework for the activity of constitutional courts in the Russian Federation and the state constitutional courts in Germany. The discussions also covered the legal status of judges in constitutional courts, the question of when a citizen can apply to a constitutional court and the constitutional right to silence of the accused.

The areas of discussion were of enormous practical relevance to the Russian experts present and were immediately met with great interest. Lively discussions and intense exchanges of expertise between the Russian and German sides meant that the successful cooperation, which as far as legal collaboration is concerned has existed for years, could be continued and further enhanced with new content.
In future years, the IRZ will continue to play an active role in organising the traditional German Week in St. Petersburg.

Download: Programme and brochure for German Week

Bilateral workshop on labour and social law in Germany

On 9 December 2016, the IRZ supported the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy as it led a German-Russian workshop on "Employers’ responsibility for social protection in Russia: comparative legal aspects", which took place in Munich.

Eight speakers from Russia, all leading experts in labour and social law, were among those who gave lectures at the event. They represented four prestigious universities and one institute:

  • The Lomonossov University in Moscow,
  • The National Research University "Higher School of Economics" in Moscow,
  • The State University of St. Petersburg,
  • The State University of Perm and
  • The All-Russian Economic Research Institute for the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Russian Federation.

The German side was represented by experts from the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy, as well as by the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg and the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.

The Russian experts provided an in-depth insight into the development of employers’ social responsibilities and the current position of employers in terms of social insurance. As well as the liability of employers to make contributions, questions were also raised about the employer’s responsibility in Russia (partially preserved from the USSR) to pay out social benefits and the employer’s duties in terms of safety at work. During lectures and discussions, the advantages and disadvantages of the payment of social benefits by the employer were analysed. Practical problems arising in the application of the law and the reality of law enforcement due to the involvement of employers were also openly discussed.

At the same time, the German lectures allowed the Russian participants to gain an insight into the control mechanisms used in Germany to involve the employer in social insurance and in the reintegration of  employees following sick leave. During their lectures and contributions to discussions, the German speakers said that these control mechanisms work better in practice if the employer’s interests are taken into account (e.g. exemption from liability for the employer thanks to effective statutory accident insurance). The Russian participants were also very interested, particularly in view of demographic changes, in hearing about the experiences of their German colleagues concerning the reintegration of employees following long periods of sick leave.

Common ground shared between both legal systems was established in the consequences of the non-fulfilment of employer liabilities when it comes to paying social insurance contributions. In both countries, this should basically not have a detrimental effect on the insured, whereby the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation even used the legal situation in Germany as a basis for its 2007 decision on the duty of the state to "subsequently rectify" any contributions not paid by the employer.

Lively discussions took place after each block of lectures, made up of two to three Russian lectures and one German lecture. The results of the workshop are published in a conference transcript.

Russian Committee for Civil Initiatives on a study visit to Germany

Delegation members at the reception in Schweinfurt

Delegation members at the reception in Schweinfurt

By invitation of the IRZ, the Russian Committee for Civil Initiatives (KGI) visited Germany from 27 November to 3 December 2016 for a study visit on the “Economic development of municipalities – legal framework and practical experience”. The issues of the economic development of municipalities had already been discussed at a conference organised by the IRZ and the KGI on the role of self-government authorities in developing the local economy, which took place in Moscow on 25 May 2016. Since this subject is highly topical and practically significant, the IRZ organised a more in-depth study visit to Germany for the Russian municipality experts.

During the visit, local self-government representatives and experts in municipal law were given a deeper insight into the legal framework for developing the local economy in the German region of Bavaria. During the working visit to the Bavarian State Ministry for the Interior, Construction and Urban Affairs, the Russian guests familiarised themselves with the structure and tasks of local self-government authorities in Bavaria. 

During a working session at the New City Hall in Munich, the Russian counterparts learned about the duties and working structures of the Munich city administration.

Expert discussions were also held at the Bavarian State Ministry for Finance, Regional Development and Home Affairs and at the LfA Förderbank Bayern, where the framework of municipal financial compensation, negotiations between the Ministry of Finance and the Municipalities Council on the use of intermediate budgetary resources and funding opportunities for SMEs and municipalities from the LfA Förderbank Bayern were discussed.

During the subsequent visit to the Bavarian Municipalities Council, intense discussions took place on the responsibilities and duties of municipal associations in Bavaria and collaboration between the federal state government and the associations, particularly when it comes to the definition of municipal budgets. 

The study visit was supplemented by expert talks with employees of the urban economic departments of Erlangen and Schweinfurt. The members of the delegation were able to learn a great deal about the practical experiences of these municipalities in the field of economic development. In Erlangen, the Russian guests were introduced to the Medical Valley Centre, an innovation centre for medical technology and pharmaceuticals. Here they learned about potential support from companies within the context of the medical cluster and by the management of the Medical Valley Centre. The possibilities of non-financial support for companies from the city were also discussed.

On the last day of the study visit, intense discussions took place with the Managing Director of the GRIBS start-up centre and the Head of the Office for Economic Development and Property for the city of Schweinfurt. The meeting was about the potential offered by the GRIBS start-up centre for providing SMEs with financial support, the tasks of the Economic Department for the City of Schweinfurt and in particular about the conversion protects that are currently underway in the city. During a tour of the modern Maintal industrial and business park organised by their Schweinfurt colleagues, the Russian guests were also able to see for themselves some practical examples of economic support and development in Schweinfurt. This was followed by a lively exchange of experiences on economic development projects and how they are being implemented in Russian towns and cities and in Schweinfurt.